tyrant

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From Middle English tyrant and tyrante, from Old French tyrant, from the addition of a terminal -t to Old French tiran (cp. French tyran) via a back-formation related to the development of French present participles out of the Latin -ans form, from Latin tyrannus (despot), from Ancient Greek τύραννος (túrannos, usurper, monarch, despot),[1] of uncertain origin.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

tyrant (plural tyrants)

  1. (historical, ancient Greece) A usurper; one who gains power and rules extralegally, distinguished from kings elevated by election or succession
    • c. 1330, Robert Mannyng, Chronicle, 51
      A bastard no kyngdom suld hald Bot if þat he it wan... Of tirant or of Sarazin.
    • c. 1374, Geoffrey Chaucer translating Boëthius, De consolatione philosophiæ, III v 59
      A tyraunt þat was kyng of sysile.
    • c. 1595, William Shakespeare, The third Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Duke of York, III iii 71
      To proue him Tyrant, this reason may suffice, That Henry liueth still.
    • 1980, Michel Austin & al., Economic and Social History of Ancient Greece, 142
      The reappearance of tyranny [in the 4th century BC] had many reasons... one of the main causes was the development of antagonism between rich and poor; tyrants came to power exploiting a social and political imbalance within the state.
    • 1996, Roger Boesche, Theories of Tyranny, from Plato to Arendt, 4
      Ancient Greek tyrannies appeared once more in great numbers with the breakdown of the polis in the period from the fourth to the second centuries [BC]. These later tyrannies tended to rely on a more narrow class base and to use a brutal military rule, and thus writers could use the words tyrant and tyranny, with their modern connotations of evil and cruelty, to describe them accurately.
  2. (obsolete) Any monarch or governor
  3. A despot; a ruler who governs unjustly, cruelly, or harshly
    • 1297, Robert of Gloucester, Chronicle, 7689
      To hom þat wolde is wille do debonere he was & milde & to hom þat wiþsede strong tirant & wilde
    • c. 1471, John Fortescue, Works, 453
      Whan a Kyng rulith his Realme onely to his own profytt, and not to the good of his Subgetts, he ys a Tyraunte.
    • 1587, Philip Sidney and Arthur Golding, A woorke concerning the trewnesse of the christian religion, translating Philippe De Mornay, XII 196
      Tyrannes...be but Gods scourges which he will cast into the fyre when he hath done with them.
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar, V iv 5
      I am the Sonne of Marcus Cato, hoe.
      A Foe to Tyrants, and my Countries Friend.
    • 1888, James Bryce, The American Commonweath, I iv 42
      They [viz., the Framers of the American Constitution] held England to be the freest and best-governed country in the world, but were resolved to avoid the weak points which had enabled King George III. to play the tyrant, and which rendered English liberty, as they thought, far inferior to that which the constitutions of their own States secured.
  4. (by extension) Any person who abuses the power of position or office to treat others unjustly, cruelly, or harshly
    • c. 1290, "Ici poez oyer coment seint Thomas de Kaunterbures nasqui. e de quev manere gent de pere e de Mere." in the South-English Legendary (MS Laud 108), I 128
      Ore louerd helpe nouþe seint thomas : for oþur frend nath he non, / A-mong so manie tyraunz for-to come: þat weren alle is fon!
    • c. 1611, William Shakespeare, The Tempest, II ii 161
      A plague vpon the Tyrant that I serue
    • 1817, Mary Mitford in Alfred L'Estrange, The life of Mary Russell Mitford (1870), II i 2
      ...A sad tyrant, as my friends the Democrats sometimes are.
  5. (by extension) A villain; a person or thing who uses strength or violence to treat others unjustly, cruelly, or harshly
  6. (ornithology) The tyrant birds, members of the family Tyrannidæ, which often fight or drive off other birds which approach their nests
    • 1731, Mark Catesby, The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, I 55
      The Tyrant... The courage of this little Bird is singular.
    • c. 1841, Swainson, Penny Cyclopaedia, XXI 415 2
      The lesser tyrants (Tyrannulæ) are spread over the whole of America, where they represent the true flycatcher... The tyrants are bold and quarrelsome birds, particularly during the season of incubation.
    • 1895, Alfred Newton, A Dictionary of Birds
      Tyrant or Tyrant-bird, Catesby applied it solely to...the King-bird..., but apparently as much in reference to its bright crown...as to its tyrannical behaviour to other birds.

Synonyms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Adjective[edit]

tyrant

  1. (uncommon) Tyrannical, tyrannous; like, characteristic of, or in the manner of a tyrant
    • 1297, Robert of Gloucester, Chronicles, 8005
      Milce nas þer mid him [King William] non...Ac as a tirant tormentor in speche & ek in dede.
    • c. 1530, John Rastell, Pastyme of People
      He was most tirant & cruell of all emperours.
    c. 1600, William Shakespeare, As you Like it, I ii 278
    Thus must I from the smoake into the smother,
    From tyrant Duke, vnto a tyrant Brother.
    • 1775, Abigail Adams, letter in Familiar Letters of John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams, during the Revolution (1876), 124
      ...a reconciliation between our no longer parent state, but tyrant state, and these colonies.

Verb[edit]

tyrant (third-person singular simple present tyrants, present participle tyranting, simple past and past participle tyranted)

  1. (obsolete) To act like a tyrant; to be tyrannical.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Fuller to this entry?)

External links[edit]


Middle English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Noun[edit]

tyrant

  1. tyrant

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Tyrant, n."