Tyr"ant (?), n. [OE. tirant,
tiraunt, tyraunt, OF. tiran, tirant (probably
from confusion with the p. pr. of verbs), F. tyran, L.
tyrannus, Gr. ?, originally, an absolute sovereign, but
afterwards, a severe or cruel ruler.] 1. An absolute
ruler; a sovereign unrestrained by law or constitution; a usurper of
☞ Free governments [in Greece] having superseded the old hereditary
sovereignties (basilei^ai), all who obtained absolute power in a
state were called ty\rannoi, tyrants, or rather
despots; -- for the term rather regards the irregular way in which
the power was gained, whether force or fraud, than the way in which
it was exercised, being applied to the mild Pisistratus, but not to
the despotic kings of Persia. However, the word soon came to imply
reproach, and was then used like our tyrant. Liddell &
2. Specifically, a monarch, or other ruler or
master, who uses power to oppress his subjects; a person who exercises
unlawful authority, or lawful authority in an unlawful manner; one who by
taxation, injustice, or cruel punishment, or the demand of unreasonable
services, imposes burdens and hardships on those under his control, which
law and humanity do not authorize, or which the purposes of government do
not require; a cruel master; an oppressor. "This false tyrant,
this Nero." Chaucer.
Love, to a yielding heart, is a king, but to a resisting, is
a tyrant. Sir P. Sidney.
3. (Zoöl.) Any one of numerous species
of American clamatorial birds belonging to the family
Tyrannidæ; -- called also tyrant bird.
☞ These birds are noted for their irritability and pugnacity, and
for the courage with which they attack rapacious birds far exceeding them
in size and strength. They are mostly plain-colored birds, but often have a
bright-colored crown patch. A few species, as the scissorstail, are
handsomely colored. The kingbird and pewee are familiar examples.
Tyrant flycatcher (Zoöl.), any one of
numerous species of tyrants which have a flattened bill, toothed at the
tip, and resemble the true flycatchers in habits. The Acadian flycatcher
(Empidonax Acadicus) and the vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus
rubineus) are examples. -- Tyrant shrike
(Zoöl.), any one of numerous species of American tyrants of
the genus Tyrannus having a strong toothed bill and resembling the
strikes in habits. The kingbird is an example.