[des-puh-tiz-uh m]


the rule of a despot; the exercise of absolute authority.
absolute power or control; tyranny.
an absolute or autocratic government.
a country ruled by a despot.

Origin of despotism

From the French word despotisme, dating back to 1720–30. See despot, -ism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for despotism

tyranny, authoritarianism, autocracy, dictatorship

Examples from the Web for despotism

Contemporary Examples of despotism

Historical Examples of despotism

British Dictionary definitions for despotism



the rule of a despot; arbitrary, absolute, or tyrannical government
arbitrary or tyrannical authority or behaviour
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

Word Origin and History for despotism

mid-18c., from French despotisme; see despot + -ism.

All education is despotism. [William Godwin, "Enquirer," 1797]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

despotism in Culture



Unlimited political rule by one person.


The term usually suggests unscrupulous rule, or tyranny.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.