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[des-puh t, -pot] /ˈdɛs pət, -pɒt/
a king or other ruler with absolute, unlimited power; autocrat.
any tyrant or oppressor.
History/Historical. an honorary title applied to a Byzantine emperor, afterward to members of his family, and later to Byzantine vassal rulers and governors.
Origin of despot
1555-65; < Greek despótēs master < *dems-pot- presumably, “master of the house,” equivalent to *dems-, akin to dómos house + pot-, base of pósis husband, spouse; cf. hospodar, host1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for despot
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The picture of the despot as a good creature who shields the poor from the rich is not to be found among the facts of history.

    Old and New Masters Robert Lynd
  • Other arts were employed by the despot for the attainment of his desires.

  • The decrees of that merciless English despot, Propriety, claimed her for their own.

    The Legacy of Cain Wilkie Collins
  • The legislator must purify them, and if he be not a despot he will find this task to be a difficult one.

    Laws Plato
  • Peerless, he was irresponsible—the captain of his soul, the despot of his future.

    Zuleika Dobson Max Beerbohm
British Dictionary definitions for despot


an absolute or tyrannical ruler; autocrat or tyrant
any person in power who acts tyrannically
a title borne by numerous persons of rank in the later Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires: the despot of Servia
Derived Forms
despotic (dɛsˈpɒtɪk), despotical, adjective
despotically, adverb
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin despota, from Greek despotēs lord, master; related to Latin domus house
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for despot

1560s, "absolute ruler," from Old French despot (14c.), from Medieval Latin despota, from Greek despotes "master of a household, lord, absolute ruler," from PIE *dems-pota-; for first element see domestic (adj.); second element cognate with Latin potis, potens (see potent).

Faintly pejorative in Greek, progressively more so as used in various languages for Roman emperors, Christian rulers of Ottoman provinces, and Louis XVI during the French Revolution. The female equivalent was despoina "lady, queen, mistress," source of the proper name Despina.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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