Despotism (Greek: Δεσποτισμός, Despotismós) is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. Normally, that entity is an individual, the despot, as in an autocracy, but societies which limit respect and power to specific groups have also been called despotic.[1]

Colloquially, the word despot applies pejoratively to those who abuse their power and authority to oppress their populace, subjects, or subordinates. More specifically, the term often applies to a head of state or government. In this sense, it is similar to the pejorative connotations that are associated with the terms tyrant and dictator.[2]


The English dictionary defines despotism as "the rule of a despot; the exercise of absolute authority."[3]

The root despot comes from the Greek word despotes, which means "master" or "one with power." The term has been used to describe many rulers and governments throughout history. It connoted the absolute authority and power exercised by the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, signified nobility in Byzantine courts, designated the rulers of Byzantine vassal states, and acted as a title for Byzantine Emperors. In this and other Greek or Greek influenced contexts, the term was used as an honorific rather than as a pejorative.

Due to its reflexive connotation throughout history, the word despot cannot be objectively defined. While despot is closely related to other Greek words like basileus and autokrator, these connotations have also been used to describe a variety of rulers and governments throughout history, such as local chieftains, simple rulers, kings, and emperors.

Other Languages
العربية: استبداد
asturianu: Despotismu
azərbaycanca: Despotizm
български: Деспотизъм
català: Despotisme
čeština: Despocie
dansk: Despoti
Deutsch: Despotie
eesti: Despootia
Ελληνικά: Δεσποτισμός
español: Despotismo
Esperanto: Despotismo
euskara: Despotismo
فارسی: خودکامگی
français: Despotisme
galego: Despotismo
hrvatski: Despotizam
Bahasa Indonesia: Despotisme
íslenska: Harðstjórn
עברית: עריץ
ქართული: დესპოტიზმი
қазақша: Деспотизм
magyar: Despotizmus
მარგალური: დესპოტიზმი
Bahasa Melayu: Despotisme
Nederlands: Despotisme
日本語: 独裁主義
norsk: Despoti
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Despotiya
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਧੱਕੇਸ਼ਾਹੀ
português: Despotismo
română: Despotism
русский: Деспотизм
Scots: Despotism
Simple English: Despotism
slovenčina: Despotizmus
slovenščina: Despotizem
српски / srpski: Деспотизам
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Despotizam
suomi: Despotismi
svenska: Despotism
Türkçe: Despotizm
українська: Деспотизм
中文: 专制主义