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

  • n. Rule by or as if by a despot; absolute power or authority.
  • n. The actions of a despot; tyranny.
  • n. A government or political system in which the ruler exercises absolute power: "Kerensky has a place in history, of a brief interlude between despotisms” ( William Safire).
  • n. A state so ruled.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. government by a singular authority, either a single person or tight-knit group, which rules with absolute power

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The power, spirit, or principles of a despot; absolute control over others; tyrannical sway; tyranny.
  • n. A government which is directed by a despot; a despotic monarchy; absolutism; autocracy.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Absolute power; authority unlimited and uncontrolled by constitutional restrictions, and depending only on the will of the prince: as, the despotism of Louis XIV.
  • n. An arbitrary government; the rule of a despot; absolutism; autocracy.
  • n. Figuratively, absolute power or controlling influence.
  • n. Synonyms Despotism, Tyranny, Autocracy, Absolutism. All these words imply absolute power. Tyranny is the abuse of absolute power, legal or usurped, and implies oppression. Despotism, in its earlier and still frequent meaning, does not necessarily imply either regard or disregard for the welfare of the subject; but there is also a tendency to give it essentially the same meaning as tyranny, using absolutism or autocracy where an unfavorable meaning is not intended. See oppression.

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

  • n. dominance through threat of punishment and violence
  • n. a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • Loud were the complaints of these gentry at what they called the despotism of the new governor-general, on finding themselves excluded from that participation in state secrets in which they had long reveled, in a country where so much advantage may be derived from knowing beforehand what is coming at headquarters.

    Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine - Volume 55, No. 343, May 1844

  • Church is self-subsisting and not necessarily connected with what they call despotism, begin to regard it as a Divine institution and return to her fold. '

    Life of Father Hecker

  • Marx envisioned cooperation among all workers - the employed and unemployed - in labor unions as the means to destroy what he called the despotism of capitalism.

    Capitol Hill Coffee House

  • The difference between an understandable legislative process and despotism is transparency.

    Matthew Yglesias » How a Self-Executing Rule Works

  • If you believe despotism is bad now on a global scale, JUST WAIT until there is no great power which in some form or fashion advocates, encourages, and supports:

    The Economist Still Hates To See Humans in Space - NASA Watch

  • To accept that violence works is to accept the science of despotism from the dawn of human existence.

    Can you prove nonviolence works?

  • Thus the world is fated to see a steady increase in despotism, warfare, civil strife, impoverishment, fanaticism and genocide.

    A Convenient Enemy

  • Over time, of course, Fujimori's iron hand of reform evolved into the familiar Latin American despotism, supported largely by the intrigues of Montesinos.

    What The Spy Chief Knows

  • But the central thesis — that “mixed economy” style regulation leads inexorably to full-blown despotism, is by this point pretty clearly false.

    Serfdom’s Receding Horizon

  • Enlightened despotism is thus preferable to democracy: the masses require protection from themselves.

    Was Democracy Just a Moment?


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