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originally a Roman magistrate appointed to rule the state in times of emergency; in modern usage, an absolutist or autocratic ruler who assumes extraconstitutional powers. From 501 B.C. until the abolition of the office in 44 B.C., Rome had 88 dictators. They were usually appointed by a consul and were invested with sweeping authority over the citizens, but they were limited to a term of six months and lacked power over the public finances. Dictators were held to strict account for their conduct in office. Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Julius Caesar abolished the limitations to dictatorship and governed unconstitutionally. The Romans abandoned the institution after Caesar's murder. Modern dictators have usually come to power in times of emergency. Frequently they have seized power by coup, but some, most notably Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany, achieved office by legal means and once in power overthrew constitutional restraints. In the USSR the "dictatorship of the proletariat" took the form of a concentration of power in the hands of the Communist party. Under Joseph Stalin it developed into a personal dictatorship, but after his death there emerged a system of collective leadership. Latin American nations have undergone many dictatorships, usually by military leaders at the head of a junta. See totalitarianismtotalitarianism
, a modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs
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(1) In a number of Latin cities of ancient Italy an annually elected ruler who had unlimited power; also the head of the Latin League.

(2) In ancient Rome during the period of the Republic (fifth century B.C. to the second half of the first century B.C.) an official with extensive powers and responsibilities (magistrate). At times of extreme danger (internal disorders or threat of war), when it was deemed necessary to transfer power into the hands of one person, a dictator was appointed for a maximum of six months by the consuls upon resolution of the Senate. The dictator had absolute control over the entire state. An explanation for each dictator’s election was always added to his title (for example, a dictator who was elected in a time of military danger was called dictator rei gerundae causa, dictator to wage war).

Prior to the fourth century B.C., a dictator’s judicial decision could not be appealed to the popular assembly. Generally all officials, including the consuls, were subject to the rule of the dictator. Initially, the position of dictator was accessible only to patricians, but beginning in 356 B.C. plebeians could also be elected. Frequently a dictator was elected only for a brief term in order to carry out a single commission (for example, something of a religious nature). During the dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar, who were appointed without time limitations (dictator perpetuus), the position of dictator acquired a monarchical character. Dictatorship was abolished in 44 B.C. by Mark Antony.


a. a ruler who is not effectively restricted by a constitution, laws, recognized opposition, etc.
b. an absolute, esp tyrannical, ruler
2. (in ancient Rome) a person appointed during a crisis to exercise supreme authority
References in periodicals archive ?
If the odious debt doctrine makes the dictator more short-sighted and less likely to make quasi-public investment, even though the probability that a dictator might come into power is lower, the public is worse off if one does.
Modern dictators might not prescribe to monumental structures or Roman elements, but any structure backed by a political agenda conceals a dictator hungry for power.
One of the co-contestants is seen telling the person playing the part of the dictator that she was from north India and as such "did not know what happened to those in Tamil Nadu who gave a dictatorial rule earlier".
PPP Chairman pointed out that dictator Zia promoted extremism and terrorism besides 'digging graves' to bury the ideology and ideals of the founding fathers of the country.
An unwritten, but not entirely unimaginable, chapter in this study could focus on Pakistan's share of dictators who have held the reins over this country for the larger part of its history.
There is a country with a dictator and two (ethnic or religious) groups, labeled A and B.
One wonders how the Filipinos will react to Duterte's admission or claim of being a dictator. His propaganda people's initial spin on the President's statement was to tweak his remarks to soften their impact.
'The real truth is, those who called Mahathir 'an authoritarian dictator, a Mahazalim and Mahafiraun, who was undemocratic, and has become super rich through corruption' are those in Pakatan Harapan,' Salleh said in his latest blog post today.
Kayong mga pulis, is it good for you to allow me to be a dictator? You will allow it?
Of course, on closer analysis it will be found that such patriotism or nationalism is not clearly defined by those dictators who appeal to the patriotic sense of their fellow citizens.
Instead, I want to keep searching the answers to these questions: In what cases can we really use the word "dictator"?
World War II raged in Europe when "The Great Dictator" premiered in London on December 16, 1940, just two months after the film was released in the US.