You can decipher the meaning of totalitarian by the first part: "total." It refers to a government with total power, one that exercises complete, even oppressive control over the people and their activities. (You can also figure it’s not nice.)

The word totalitarian first came about in 1926 as totalitario, an adjective to describe the Italian fascism of that time. The English form was adapted from the Italian to describe an absolutely powerful regime. Socialist leader Norman Thomas once said: "To us Americans much has been given; of us much is required. With all our faults and mistakes, it is our strength in support of the freedom our forefathers loved which has saved mankind from subjection to totalitarian power."

Definitions of totalitarian
  1. adjective
    characterized by a government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control
    “"a totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul"- Arthur M.Schlesinger, Jr.”
    not in agreement with or according to democratic doctrine or practice or ideals
  2. adjective
    of or relating to the principles of totalitarianism according to which the state regulates every realm of life
    totalitarian theory and practice”
    synonyms: totalistic
  3. noun
    an adherent of totalitarian principles or totalitarian government
    see moresee less
    type of:
    adherent, disciple
    someone who believes and helps to spread the doctrine of another
Word Family