AskDefine | Define cruelty

Dictionary Definition



1 a cruel act; a deliberate infliction of pain and suffering [syn: inhuman treatment]
2 feelings of extreme heartlessness [syn: mercilessness, pitilessness, ruthlessness]
3 the quality of being cruel and causing tension or annoyance [syn: cruelness, harshness]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. an indifference to suffering or positive pleasure in inflicting suffering.
  2. a cruel act


indifference to suffering
positive pleasure in inflicting suffering
cruel act

Extensive Definition

Cruel redirects here. The sort of embroidery thread is correctly spelt crewel.
Cruelty can be described as indifference to suffering and even positive pleasure in inflicting it. Sadism can also be related to this form of action or concept.
Cruel ways of inflicting suffering may involve violence, but violence is not necessary for an act to be cruel. For example, if another person is drowning and begging for help, and another person is able to help, but merely watches with disinterest or amusement, that person is being cruel — not violent.
Cruelty usually carries connotations of supremacy over a submissive or weaker force.
The term cruelty is often used with regard to the treatment of animals, children and prisoners. See: punishment, draconian, and cruel and unusual punishment. When cruelty to animals is discussed, it often refers to unnecessary suffering.
According to Le Comte de Lautreamont "For my part, I use my genius to depict the delights of cruelty: delights which are not transitory or artificial..." because they are primordial and natural. "Cannot genius be allied with cruelty in the secret resolutions of providence? Or, can one, being cruel, not have genius?"
According to Friedrich Nietzsche, almost all higher culture comes from the spiritualization of cruelty.
According to Richey Edwards, "The centre of humanity is cruelty there is never redemption any fool can regret yesterday".
According to Ian McEwan, the Booker Prize winner in 1998, "novels are not about 'teaching people how to live but about showing the possibility of what it is like to be someone else. It is the basis of all sympathy, empathy and compassion. Other people are as alive as you are. Cruelty is a failure of imagination'."

See also



cruelty in German: Brutalität
cruelty in Spanish: Crueldad
cruelty in Italian: Crudeltà
cruelty in Dutch: Wreedheid
cruelty in Russian: Жестокость
cruelty in Slovak: Krutosť
cruelty in Ukrainian: Брутальність

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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