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 formsruth·less·ly, adverbruth·less·ness, noun

Synonyms for ruthless

Synonym study

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

Examples from the Web for ruthless

Contemporary Examples of ruthless

Historical Examples of ruthless

  • There was something so ruthless in the boy, so overbearing and heartless.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • He perceived that he had become the victim of a harsh and ruthless dealing.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • "Here, take it," the postman said in a tone of ruthless finality.

    Pee-wee Harris

    Percy Keese Fitzhugh

  • Alice interfered; she perceived that the ruthless Mrs. Dowling meant to have her way.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

  • I was determined to pursue my ruthless course in his defense to the end.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

British Dictionary definitions for ruthless



feeling or showing no mercy; hardhearted
Derived Formsruthlessly, adverbruthlessness, 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 ruthless

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