Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

cruel - definition and synonyms


What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.



The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

adjective cruel pronunciation in British English /ˈkruːəl/
Word Forms
  1. 1
    someone who is cruel enjoys causing pain to other people or animals, or enjoys making them unhappy or upset

    a cruel parent

    cruel to:

    How could you be so cruel to someone who never did you any harm?

    1. a.
      used about someone’s behaviour

      She had a cruel look in her eyes.

      a cruel sense of humour

  2. 2
    cruel events or situations make people suffer in a way that seems unfair

    It’s a cruel world.

    a cruel blow:

    Closing the school would be a cruel blow to this community.

    Synonyms and related words

derived word




to fall over forwards so that your face hits the ground or another surface

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


the activity of exploring abandoned buildings and other manmade structures

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play