What is the difference between Tyrant and Tyranny?

The difference between tyrant and tyranny

is that “tyrant” is a usurper; one who gains power and rules extralegally, distinguished from kings elevated by election or succession and “tyranny” is a government in which a single ruler has absolute power; this system of government.




  • (historical, Ancient Greece) A usurper; one who gains power and rules extralegally, distinguished from kings elevated by election or succession.
  • (obsolete) Any monarch or governor.
  • A despot; a ruler who governs unjustly, cruelly, or harshly.
  • (by extension) Any person who abuses the power of position or office to treat others unjustly, cruelly, or harshly.
  • (by extension) A villain; a person or thing who uses strength or violence to treat others unjustly, cruelly, or harshly.
  • The tyrant birds, members of the family Tyrannidae, which often fight or drive off other birds which approach their nests.


  • (Greek ruler): archon, basileus, aisymnetes
  • (unjust or strict ruler or superior): autocrat, dictator, despot, martinet
  • (bird): tyrant bird, tyrant flycatcher, tyrant shrike, king bird, bee martin

Related terms

  • tyranness
  • tyrannical
  • tyrannicide, tyrannicidal
  • tyrannous
  • tyranny


  • To proue him Tyrant, this reason may suffice, That Henry liueth still.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cassius… set tyrants over all Syria.
  • Tyrannes…be but Gods scourges which he will cast into the fyre when he hath done with them.
  • I am the Sonne of Marcus Cato, hoe.A Foe to Tyrants, and my Countries Friend.
  • Here is a Proclamation for a Prince: that proclaims him in whoſe name it is emitted [James II of England], to be the greateſt Tyrant that ever lived in the world, and their Revolt who have diſowned him to be the juſteſt that ever was.
  • 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.
  • A plague vpon the Tyrant that I serue
  • […] a sad tyrant, as my friends the Democrats sometimes are.
  • That strang vnmercifull tyrand [Death].
  • I was a blasphemar, and a persecuter, and a tyraunt.
  • A pike .
  • O dissembling Curtesie! How fine this Tyrant Can tickle where she wounds?
  • Public opinion, the greatest tyrant of these times.
  • The Tyrant… The courage of this little Bird is singular.
  • The lesser tyrants 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.
  • 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.


  • (uncommon) Tyrannical, tyrannous; like, characteristic of, or in the manner of a tyrant.


  • He was most tirant & cruell of all emperours.
  • Thus must I from the smoake into the smother,From tyrant Duke, vnto a tyrant Brother.
  • …a reconciliation between our no longer parent state, but tyrant state, and these colonies.


  • (intransitive, obsolete) To act like a tyrant; to be tyrannical.
  • (transitive, obsolete) To tyrannize.


  • A government in which a single ruler (a tyrant) has absolute power; this system of government.
  • The office or jurisdiction of an absolute ruler.
  • Absolute power, or its use.
  • A system of government in which power is exercised on behalf of the ruler or ruling class, without regard to the wishes of the governed.
  • Extreme severity or rigour.


  • (government): autocracy, despotism, dictatorship, monarchy

Related terms

  • tyrant


  • Control, dispossession, violence, and tyranny are not “defensive": they are part of an organized, ongoing aggression.