having or showing no pity or compassion for others; merciless


US English

UK English

Part of Speech



merciless, heartless, cruel, pitiless, uncompassionate, unsympathetic, callous, indifferent, inhuman


merciful, compassionate, kind, humane, sympathetic, soft-hearted, tenderhearted, warmhearted

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun ruthlessness, ruthlessnesses
Verb None
Adjective ruthless
Adverb ruthlessly

Example Sentences

  • The ruthless dictator ruled the country with an iron fist, suppressing dissent and using violence to maintain his power.

  • The ruthless business tycoon would stop at nothing to eliminate his competition, employing unethical tactics and exploiting others for personal gain.

  • The ruthless assassin carried out the mission without remorse, executing each target with cold precision and leaving no trace behind.

  • The ruthless mob boss instilled fear in the hearts of those who crossed him, showing no mercy and demanding absolute loyalty from his underlings.


The word “ruthless” originated from the Old English word “rūthleas,” which can be broken down into “rūth,” meaning “pity” or “compassion,” and “-leas,” indicating the absence of something. Therefore, “ruthless” essentially means “without pity” or “lacking compassion.” It is used to describe individuals or actions that are unrelenting, cruel, and without mercy or remorse.

The prefix “ruth-” refers to mercy or compassion, while the suffix “-less” signifies the absence or lack of something. The root word “ruth” has Old English and Germanic origins, highlighting the concept of compassion and sympathy. By adding the suffix “-less,” the word takes on a negative connotation, denoting the absence of mercy or compassion.

The term “ruthless” is commonly used to describe people who are harsh, unyielding, and unsympathetic in their behavior or decision-making. It is often associated with individuals who prioritize their own interests or goals above all else, showing no concern for the well-being or feelings of others. The word is frequently used in contexts such as leadership, business, politics, and conflict, where the absence of compassion can lead to detrimental consequences for others.

In literature, “ruthless” is often used to depict antagonistic characters or portray acts of extreme violence and cruelty. It can also be employed to describe situations or systems that operate without regard for human welfare or dignity. The word serves as a stark reminder of the absence of empathy and the potential for harm that can arise from such a mindset.

Overall, “ruthless” is a powerful term that highlights the absence of compassion, mercy, or empathy in individuals, actions, or systems. Its usage emphasizes the severity and harshness associated with behavior that disregards the well-being of others.