verb (used with object)

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.
to lie heavily upon (the mind, a person, etc.): Care and sorrow oppressed them.
to weigh down, as sleep or weariness does.
Archaic. to put down; subdue or suppress.
Archaic. to press upon or against; crush.

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

Synonyms for oppress

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.

Antonyms for oppress

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for oppressors

Contemporary Examples of oppressors

  • Some, I knew, were already going off to plan the resistance against the American oppressors.

    The Daily Beast logo
    I Watched Iraq Fall

    Janine di Giovanni

    March 17, 2013

Historical Examples of oppressors

  • And as it grew under its oppressors, so it is found to have crushed them.

    The Formation of Christendom, Volume VI

    Thomas W. (Thomas William) Allies

  • We have never, thank God, lied to our oppressors by saying we were loyal to them.

    Ireland as It Is

    Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)

  • They are the oppressors of Egypt, but the lions of the desert are not more courageous.

    At Aboukir and Acre

    George Alfred Henty

  • It is for Kings to carry fire and sword among the oppressors.

  • And behold the tears of such as are oppressed; and on the side of their oppressors there was power.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Harriet Beecher Stowe

British Dictionary definitions for oppressors


verb (tr)

to subjugate by cruelty, force, etc
to afflict or torment
to lie heavy on (the mind, imagination, etc)
an obsolete word for overwhelm
Derived Formsoppressingly, adverboppressor, noun

Word Origin for oppress

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 oppressors



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper