a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly.
any person in a position of authority who exercises power oppressively or despotically.
a tyrannical or compulsory influence.
an absolute ruler, especially one in ancient Greece or Sicily.

Origin of tyrant

1250–1300; Middle English tirant < Old French < Latin tyrannus < Greek týrannos
Related formsun·der·ty·rant, noun

Synonyms for tyrant

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

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British Dictionary definitions for tyrant



a person who governs oppressively, unjustly, and arbitrarily; despot
any person who exercises authority in a tyrannical manner
anything that exercises tyrannical influence
(esp in ancient Greece) a ruler whose authority lacked the sanction of law or custom; usurper

Word Origin for tyrant

C13: from Old French tyrant, from Latin tyrannus, from Greek turannos
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 tyrant

c.1300, "absolute ruler," from Old French tyrant (12c.), from Latin tyrannus "lord, master, tyrant" (cf. Spanish tirano, Italian tiranno), from Greek tyrannos "lord, master, sovereign, absolute ruler," a loan-word from a language of Asia Minor (probably Lydian); cf. Etruscan Turan "mistress, lady" (surname of Venus).

In the exact sense, a tyrant is an individual who arrogates to himself the royal authority without having a right to it. This is how the Greeks understood the word 'tyrant': they applied it indifferently to good and bad princes whose authority was not legitimate. [Rousseau, "The Social Contract"]

The spelling with -t arose in Old French by analogy with present participle endings in -ant. Fem. form tyranness is recorded from 1590 (Spenser); cf. Medieval Latin tyrannissa (late 14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper