“Dictator”: Dictionary Definitions

With seemingly one-half of the American public, believe it or not, considering shifting from a democracy to a dictatorship, I decided I must not know what a dictator actually is.

            In my head, a dictator is an inherently evil person, a tyrant, a person of violent rule, a slaver, oppressor of enemies, and a poor choice for a powerful leader.

            I must be wrong. So I set out to explore definitions of “dictator†in common dictionaries and relatively-trusted internet sources. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

            Dic-ta-tor, noun, 1) absolute ruler, despot, autocrat, tyrant, oppressor; 2) ruler with absolute power and authority, esp. one who exercises it tyrannically; 3) a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who obtained control by force; 4) a ruler who rules with total authority and often in a cruel and brutal manner, or one who dictates; 5) a ruler who is not effectively restricted by a constitution, laws, or recognized opposition; and on and on.

            Common to all of the definitions was absolute unrestricted total power.

            One difference was how absolute power was obtained. Most suggested it was acquired by force and one or two definitions noted that a dictator is generally not elected but rather takes power by violence and oppression.

            To me, this suggests most freedom-loving countries would never voluntarily select a dictator to lead them.

            One expanded definition of “dictator†mentioned the concept of a benevolent dictator. This was in reference to an authoritarian leader who exercises absolute power but who may allow for some civil liberties or democratic decision-making to exist among the populus.

            For most of the definitions, however, the term dictator is invariably negative and threatening.

            Photos illustrating definitions included those of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Benito Mussolini, and Mao Zedong. Adding modern examples such as Vladamir Putin and Kim Jong Un, my research convinces me we don’t need any new dictators.