"pertaining to or of the nature of a despot or despotism," 1640s, from French despotique (14c.), from Greek despotikos, from despotēs "absolute ruler" (see despot). By 1734, "unlimited, arbitrary, tyrannical." In 18c. also despotick. Related: Despotical; despotically.
Despotic monarchs sincerely anxious to improve mankind are naturally led to endeavour, by acts of legislation, to force society into the paths which they believe to be good, and such men, acting under such motives, have sometimes been the scourges of mankind. Philip II. and Isabella the Catholic inflicted more suffering in obedience to their consciences than Nero or Domitian in obedience to their lusts. [W.E.H. Lecky, "A History of European Morals," 1869]
updated on June 28, 2022