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[uh-pres-iv] /əˈprɛs ɪv/
burdensome, unjustly harsh, or tyrannical:
an oppressive king; oppressive laws.
causing discomfort by being excessive, intense, elaborate, etc.:
oppressive heat.
distressing or grievous:
oppressive sorrows.
Origin of oppressive
1620-30; < Medieval Latin oppresīvus, equivalent to oppress(us) (see oppress) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
oppressively, adverb
oppressiveness, noun
nonoppressive, adjective
nonoppressively, adverb
nonoppressiveness, noun
self-oppressive, adjective
unoppressive, adjective
unoppressively, adverb
unoppressiveness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for oppressive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There the flush and bloom of newness were oppressive to the right-minded.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • If formed on equal and just principles, it can not be oppressive.

  • Not a sound disturbed the oppressive quiet, not the quiver of a twig.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • The day was sultry, and the heat, even in the dense shade of the jungle, oppressive.

    The Monster Men Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • His wristbands and collar were oppressive; his voice and manner were oppressive.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
British Dictionary definitions for oppressive


cruel, harsh, or tyrannical
heavy, constricting, or depressing
Derived Forms
oppressively, adverb
oppressiveness, noun
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 oppressive

1640s, from Medieval Latin oppressivus, from oppress-, past participle stem of opprimere (see oppress). Related: Oppressively; oppressiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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