Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


extremely strict and severe

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The adjective draconian comes from ‘draco’, the Latin form of the Greek ‘drakon’ plus the suffix -ian. It was first used in English in the late 18th century.


Spotting the word draconian in a headline I wondered idly if it had anything to do with dragons. It does, indirectly. Both draconian, and the earlier (17th century) adjective draconic, allude to an Athenian magistrate of the 7th century BCE called Drakon who was known for the severity of the laws he introduced. But both his name and the word ‘dragon’ come from the Greek ‘drakon’ which means ‘serpent’. Draconic is not much used nowadays, and when it is it tends to mean ‘relating to dragons’. Frequent noun collocates of draconian, which is labelled formal in Macmillan Dicitonary, include cuts, punishments, restrictions, penalties, measures, laws and legislation.


It is as if they want draconian laws to stifle free speech.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

The constitution doesn’t forbid draconian punishments, just “cruel and unusual” ones.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

If your boss told you you’re not allowed to call your husband or wife from the office, I think people would view that as being unnecessarily draconian.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

Related words

extreme, ferocious, rigorous

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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