Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A ruler with absolute power.
  • n. A person who wields power oppressively; a tyrant.
  • n. A Byzantine emperor or prince.
  • n. An Eastern Orthodox bishop or patriarch.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A ruler with absolute power; a tyrant.
  • n. A title awarded to senior members of the imperial family in the late Byzantine Empire, and claimed by various independent or semi-autonomous rulers in the Balkans (12th to 15th centuries)

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A master; a lord; especially, an absolute or irresponsible ruler or sovereign.
  • n. One who rules regardless of a constitution or laws; a tyrant.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An absolute ruler; one who governs according to his own will, under a recognized right or custom, but uncontrolled by constitutional restrictions or the wishes of his subjects; a sovereign who is himself theoretically the source of all law.
  • n.
  • n. A tyrant; an oppressor; one who or a body which exercises lawful power tyrannically or oppressively, as either sovereign or master.
  • n. An honorary title of the Byzantine emperors, afterward of members of their families, and then conferred as a title of office on vassal rulers and governors: as, the despots of Epirus.
  • n. Synonyms Autocrat, dictator.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a cruel and oppressive dictator

Etymologies

French despote, from Medieval Latin despota, from Greek despotēs, master; see dem- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin despota, from Ancient Greek δεσπότης (despótēs, "lord, master, owner"), from the Proto-Indo-European phrase *déms pótis (“master of the house”). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The word "despot" applies to rule by a single person, wielding absolute power, and we use it as a term of condemnation.

    Catherine the Great's Lessons for Despots

  • When one wins an election they were not given the office so "nepotic despot" is just name calling.

    Pres. Bush Visiting in January at cvillenews.com

  • As the word therefore signifies simply the irresponsible rule of a single person, such person may be more correctly designated by the term despot, or usurper; although, in point of fact, the government was frequently of the most cruel and tyrannical character.

    Mosaics of Grecian History

  • If you clip the Greek termination off it, it is the English word 'despot,' and it conveys all that that word conveys to us, not only a lord in the sense of a constitutional monarch, not only a lord in the polite sense of a superior in dignity, but a despot in the sense of being the absolute owner of a man who has no rights against the owner, and is a slave.

    Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Luke

  • Mr. Mitchell, it matters little whether we have one or one hundred million tyrants if our rights are trampled; it is a mere question of taste whether you call the despot Czar, Dictator, or Ballot-box.

    Macaria; or, Altars of Sacrifice

  • As for the word despot I believe it suited George Bush more than any premier in the modern world but because of your biased view you will never understand what I mean.

    Mail & Guardian Online

  • To the defect of it we must attribute the frequent civil wars, through which an Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to the throne of his fathers.

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

  • Constitution, and render himself permanent ruler according to his own will and pleasure, even though he might govern well, he could never inspire the people with any sentiment of duty towards him: his sceptre was illegitimate from the beginning, and even the taking of his life, far from being interdicted by that moral feeling which condemned the shedding of blood in other cases, was considered meritorious: he could not even be mentioned in the language except by a name ([word in Greek], despot) which branded him as an object of mingled fear and dislike.

    The English Constitution

  • When Ben-Eliezer calls Mubarak a great patriot, is he perhaps conflating the term with despot?

    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: How Israel Is Blowing the Arab Spring

  • That is nationalization in the style of a Latin American despot.

    The Problem With 'Nationalization'

Comments

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  • This one is really cheating and doesn't belong with the pots and pans.

    November 9, 2009