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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for oppressive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Notwithstanding the cold of the preceding night, the day had become hot and oppressive.

  • Any man can see that he is an unfaithful, hard-hearted, and oppressive steward.

  • The flat, ominous silence that followed was unreal and oppressive.

    'Firebrand' Trevison Charles Alden Seltzer
  • They were reddish-purple, ulcerated, and the stench was oppressive.

    In Mesopotamia Martin Swayne
  • He was the first to break the dreadful and oppressive stillness.

    The Buccaneer Mrs. S. C. Hall
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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