iron hand

noun
strict or harsh control: The general governed the country with an iron hand.

Origin:
1840–50

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
iron hand
 
n
harsh or rigorous control; overbearing or autocratic force: he ruled with an iron hand

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

iron hand

Rigorous control, as in He ruled the company with an iron hand. This usage is sometimes put as iron hand in a velvet glove, meaning "firm but seemingly gentle control," as in She runs the town with an iron hand in a velvet glove. [c. 1700]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Then he wet a comb at the cabin's iron hand pump and slicked back his hair and his little brother's hair.
Only the iron hand rails remain from the lower run of stairs.
Talk not to us of weakness when you have so long broken our spirits by the iron hand of oppression.
Synonyms
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