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[tahy-ruh nt] /ˈtaɪ rənt/
a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly.
any person in a position of authority who exercises power oppressively or despotically.
a tyrannical or compulsory influence.
an absolute ruler, especially one in ancient Greece or Sicily.
1250-1300; Middle English tirant < Old French < Latin tyrannus < Greek týrannos
Related forms
undertyrant, noun
1. despot, autocrat, dictator. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tyrants
  • Academia doesn't need autocratic tyrants who run roughshod over faculty traditions and procedures.
  • One more reason that academics are considered petty tyrants.
  • Redundancy and decentralization are our friends, and the enemies of tyrants and monopolies the world round.
  • Fossil fuels are running out anyway and are increasingly in the hands of tyrants and extremists.
  • In many ways, the current strategy is much more clever than the old method used by tyrants.
  • It's the tyrants and the visionaries that end up starting wars and locking people up and doing crazy things.
  • The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
  • It accepts its natural manure, the blood of patriots and tyrants.
  • There are great books out there waiting to be written by celebrity tyrants.
  • The threat comes from the inside, from local tyrants seeking to establish internal dominance through external conflicts.
British Dictionary definitions for tyrants


a person who governs oppressively, unjustly, and arbitrarily; despot
any person who exercises authority in a tyrannical manner
anything that exercises tyrannical influence
(esp in ancient Greece) a ruler whose authority lacked the sanction of law or custom; usurper
Word Origin
C13: from Old French tyrant, from Latin tyrannus, from Greek turannos
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 tyrants



c.1300, "absolute ruler," from Old French tyrant (12c.), from Latin tyrannus "lord, master, tyrant" (cf. Spanish tirano, Italian tiranno), from Greek tyrannos "lord, master, sovereign, absolute ruler," a loan-word from a language of Asia Minor (probably Lydian); cf. Etruscan Turan "mistress, lady" (surname of Venus).

In the exact sense, a tyrant is an individual who arrogates to himself the royal authority without having a right to it. This is how the Greeks understood the word 'tyrant': they applied it indifferently to good and bad princes whose authority was not legitimate. [Rousseau, "The Social Contract"]
The spelling with -t arose in Old French by analogy with present participle endings in -ant. Fem. form tyranness is recorded from 1590 (Spenser); cf. Medieval Latin tyrannissa (late 14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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