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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ruthlessly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was to him preposterous, for she was one of that underworld against which he was ruthlessly at war.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • "I'll use my scissors and needle on them to-night," she said, ruthlessly.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • But like all such overshadowed delights, their end came swiftly, ruthlessly.

    The Night Riders Ridgwell Cullum
  • He must be dealt with out of hand, Trenchard opined, and dealt with ruthlessly.

    Mistress Wilding Rafael Sabatini
  • "I can't," said Jeff ruthlessly, when he had got her out of earshot.

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
British Dictionary definitions for ruthlessly


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 ruthlessly



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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