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See more synonyms for oppress on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints; subject to a burdensome or harsh exercise of authority or power: a people oppressed by totalitarianism.
  2. to lie heavily upon (the mind, a person, etc.): Care and sorrow oppressed them.
  3. to weigh down, as sleep or weariness does.
  4. Archaic. to put down; subdue or suppress.
  5. Archaic. to press upon or against; crush.
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Origin of oppress

1300–50; Middle English oppressen < Middle French oppresser < Medieval Latin oppressāre, derivative of Latin oppressus past participle of opprimere to squeeze, suffocate, equivalent to op- op- + -primere (combining form of premere) to press1
Related formsop·press·i·ble, adjectiveop·pres·sor, nounpre·op·press, verb (used with object)pre·op·pres·sor, nounre·op·press, verb (used with object)self-op·pres·sor, nounun·op·pressed, adjectiveun·op·press·i·ble, adjective
Can be confusedoppress repress


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
1, 2. Oppress, depress, both having the literal meaning to press down upon, to cause to sink, are today mainly limited to figurative applications. To oppress is usually to subject (a people) to burdens, to undue exercise of authority, and the like; its chief application, therefore, is to a social or political situation: a tyrant oppressing his subjects. Depress suggests mainly the psychological effect, upon the individual, of unpleasant conditions, situations, etc., that sadden and discourage: depressed by the news. When oppress is sometimes used in this sense, it suggests a psychological attitude of more complete hopelessness: oppressed by a sense of failure. 1. maltreat, persecute.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

annoy, afflict, torture, overwhelm, suppress, vex, trample, maltreat, harass, persecute, subjugate, torment, force, distress, dispirit, tax, smother, strain, hound, worry

Examples from the Web for oppress

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • And do they not make use of your own generosity to oppress you?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • How you oppress me, my dearest friend, with your politeness!

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • But I will not oppress you, my dearest friend, with further reflections of this sort.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • White Fang knew the law well: to oppress the weak and obey the strong.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • The code he learned was to obey the strong and to oppress the weak.

    White Fang

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for oppress


verb (tr)
  1. to subjugate by cruelty, force, etc
  2. to afflict or torment
  3. to lie heavy on (the mind, imagination, etc)
  4. an obsolete word for overwhelm
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Derived Formsoppressingly, adverboppressor, noun

Word Origin

C14: via Old French from Medieval Latin oppressāre, from Latin opprimere, from ob- against + premere to press
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 oppress


mid-14c., from Old French opresser "oppress, afflict; torment, smother" (13c.), from Medieval Latin oppressare, frequentative of Latin opprimere "press against, press together, press down;" figuratively "crush, put down, subdue, prosecute relentlessly" (in Late Latin "to rape"), from ob "against" (see ob-) + premere "to press, push" (see press (v.1)).

It is the due [external] restraint and not the moderation of rulers that constitutes a state of liberty; as the power to oppress, though never exercised, does a state of slavery. [St. George Tucker, "View of the Constitution of the United States," 1803]

Related: Oppressed; oppressing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper