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cruel (adjective)

If someone is cruel, they enjoy causing pain.

  • My brother was very cruel to insects when he was young. He used to pull off their legs and wings.

Cruel can also describe something that causes pain or suffering.

  • On the day before the Olympic final, Smith broke his leg. It was a cruel piece of luck.

Check out collocations

  • a cruel dictator
  • a cruel master/mistress
  • He is cruel to animals/children.
  • a cruel winter
  • a cruel joke
  • cruel luck
  • cruel treatment
  • a cruel blow
    (= a blow is a sudden shock that affects you badly)

Check out idiomatic uses

  • He had hard, cruel eyes.
  • He had a cruel streak.
    (= he could sometimes be cruel)
  • Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind.
    (= you have to do or say things that hurt people, because eventually this will help them)

Check out related words

  • mean
  • hard
  • harsh
  • sadistic
  • malicious

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