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[rooth-lis] /ˈruθ lɪs/
without pity or compassion; cruel; merciless:
a ruthless tyrant.
Origin of ruthless
Middle English word dating back to 1300-50; See origin at ruth, -less
Related forms
ruthlessly, adverb
ruthlessness, noun
unrelenting, adamant, relentless.
Synonym Study
See cruel. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ruthless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There was something so ruthless in the boy, so overbearing and heartless.

    Dust Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius
  • He perceived that he had become the victim of a harsh and ruthless dealing.

    Meadow Grass Alice Brown
  • "Here, take it," the postman said in a tone of ruthless finality.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • Alice interfered; she perceived that the ruthless Mrs. Dowling meant to have her way.

    Alice Adams Booth Tarkington
  • I was determined to pursue my ruthless course in his defense to the end.

    The Law-Breakers Ridgwell Cullum
British Dictionary definitions for ruthless


feeling or showing no mercy; hardhearted
Derived Forms
ruthlessly, adverb
ruthlessness, 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 ruthless

early 14c., from reuthe "pity, compassion" (see ruth) + -less. Ruthful (early 13c.) has fallen from use since late 17c. except as a deliberate archaism. Related: Ruthlessly; ruthlessness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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