AskDefine | Define despotic

Dictionary Definition

despotic adj
1 belonging to or having the characteristics of a despot [syn: despotical]
2 ruled by or characteristic of a despot; "moved from a feudal to a despotic order"; "his administration was arrogant and despotic"
3 characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule; having absolute sovereignty; "an authoritarian regime"; "autocratic government"; "despotic rulers"; "a dictatorial rule that lasted for the duration of the war"; "a tyrannical government" [syn: authoritarian, autocratic, dictatorial, tyrannical]

User Contributed Dictionary



From despot + -ic


  • a UK /ˈdɛs.pɒt.ɪk/ "dEs.pQt.Ik/


  1. In the manner of a despot, tyrannical.


in the manner of a despot

Extensive Definition

Despotism is a form of government by a single authority, either an individual or tightly knit group, which rules with absolute political power. In its classical form, a despotism is a state where one single person, called a Despot, wields all the power and authority, and everyone else is considered their slave. This form of despotism was the first known form of statehood and civilization; the Pharaoh of Egypt is exemplary of the classical Despot.
The term now implies tyrannical rule. However, in enlightened absolutism (also known as benevolent or enlightened despotism), which came to prominence in 18th century Europe, absolute monarchs used their authority to institute a number of reforms in the political systems and societies of their countries. This movement was probably largely triggered by the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment.
Even though the word has a pejorative meaning nowadays, it was once a legitimate title of office in the Byzantine Empire. Just as the word "Byzantine" is often used in a pejorative way (for specific reasons by certain Enlightenment authors wishing to express disapproval of that period in history), the word "Despot" was equally turned around for negative meaning. In fact, "Despot" was an Imperial title, first used under Manuel I Komnenos (1143–1180) who created it to his appointed heir Alexius-Béla. According to Gyula Moravcsik this title was a simple translation of Béla's Hungarian title 'úr', but other historians believe it comes from the ancient Greek, despotes (literally, 'the master'). In the Orthodox Liturgy, if celebrated in Greek, the priest is addressed by the deacon as "despot" even today.
It was typically bestowed on sons-in-law and later sons of the Emperor, and beginning in the 13th century it was bestowed to foreign princes. The Despot wore an elaborate costume similar to the Emperor's and had many privileges. Despots ruled over parts of the empire called Despotates.
The English government is cited to have reduced the American people under absolute despotism in the United States Declaration of Independence. "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Contrast with Monarchy

According to Montesquieu, despotism and monarchy are two different forms of autocratic rule.

External links

despotic in Bulgarian: Деспотизъм
despotic in Catalan: Despotisme
despotic in Czech: Despocie
despotic in German: Despotie
despotic in Estonian: Despootia
despotic in Spanish: Despotismo
despotic in Basque: Despotismo
despotic in French: Despotisme
despotic in Galician: Despotismo
despotic in Croatian: Despotizam
despotic in Hebrew: עריץ
despotic in Georgian: დესპოტიზმი
despotic in Hungarian: Despotizmus
despotic in Dutch: Despotisme
despotic in Japanese: 独裁主義
despotic in Polish: Monarchia despotyczna
despotic in Portuguese: Despotismo
despotic in Russian: Деспотизм
despotic in Simple English: Despotism
despotic in Slovak: Despotizmus
despotic in Slovenian: Despotizem
despotic in Serbian: Деспотизам
despotic in Serbo-Croatian: Despotizam
despotic in Finnish: Despotismi
despotic in Swedish: Despotism
despotic in Ukrainian: Деспотизм

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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