Origin: 1300–50; Middle English oppressen Related forms
< Middle French oppresser
< Medieval Latin oppressāre,
derivative of Latin oppressus
past participle of opprimere
to squeeze, suffocate, equivalent to op- op-
(combining form of premere
) to press1
pre·op·press, verb (used with object)
re·op·press, verb (used with object)
1, 2. Oppress, depress both having the literal meaning to press down upon, to cause to sink, are today mainly limited to figurative applications. To oppress is usually to subject (a people) to burdens, to undue exercise of authority, and the like; its chief application, therefore, is to a social or political situation: a tyrant oppressing his subjects. Depress suggests mainly the psychological effect, upon the individual, of unpleasant conditions, situations, etc., that sadden and discourage: depressed by the news. When oppress is sometimes used in this sense, it suggests a psychological attitude of more complete hopelessness: oppressed by a sense of failure. 1. maltreat, persecute.
2. uphold, encourage.