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See more synonyms for oppressive on Thesaurus.com
  1. burdensome, unjustly harsh, or tyrannical: an oppressive king; oppressive laws.
  2. causing discomfort by being excessive, intense, elaborate, etc.: oppressive heat.
  3. distressing or grievous: oppressive sorrows.
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Origin of oppressive

1620–30; < Medieval Latin oppresīvus, equivalent to oppress(us) (see oppress) + -īvus -ive
Related formsop·pres·sive·ly, adverbop·pres·sive·ness, nounnon·op·pres·sive, adjectivenon·op·pres·sive·ly, adverbnon·op·pres·sive·ness, nounself-op·pres·sive, adjectiveun·op·pres·sive, adjectiveun·op·pres·sive·ly, adverbun·op·pres·sive·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for oppressive

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There the flush and bloom of newness were oppressive to the right-minded.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • If formed on equal and just principles, it can not be oppressive.

  • Not a sound disturbed the oppressive quiet, not the quiver of a twig.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

  • The day was sultry, and the heat, even in the dense shade of the jungle, oppressive.

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • His wristbands and collar were oppressive; his voice and manner were oppressive.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for oppressive


  1. cruel, harsh, or tyrannical
  2. heavy, constricting, or depressing
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Derived Formsoppressively, adverboppressiveness, 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

Word Origin and History for oppressive


1640s, from Medieval Latin oppressivus, from oppress-, past participle stem of opprimere (see oppress). Related: Oppressively; oppressiveness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper