Difference Wiki

Oppression vs. Suppression: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 4, 2023
Oppression is the cruel or unjust treatment of groups, while suppression is the act of preventing or stopping an action or expression.

Key Differences

Oppression often refers to the unjust and prolonged dominance or control exerted over certain individuals or groups. It manifests in societal structures where there's an imbalance of power, leading to the marginalized feeling subjugated or persecuted. Suppression, on the other hand, pertains to the act of subduing or halting something, often a feeling, activity, or piece of information.
In the context of human rights, oppression is frequently linked with systemic discrimination, where particular groups face hindrances due to race, gender, or other factors. Suppression, in this context, would mean the intentional act of silencing or quashing those who oppose or challenge dominant narratives or structures.
In a psychological sense, oppression can be felt by individuals who believe they are being unfairly treated or restricted. It's a feeling of being trapped or stifled by external forces. Suppression, in the realm of psychology, often refers to the conscious effort to keep unwanted or unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or memories out of one's conscious awareness.
In literature and arts, oppression often serves as a central theme highlighting societal issues and calling for change. It paints pictures of protagonists battling against larger, unjust systems. Suppression, in literature, can symbolize personal battles with one's inner demons or the broader society trying to censor or control narratives.

Comparison Chart


Unjust treatment of groups.
Preventing or stopping an action or expression.


Pertains to people/groups.
Can pertain to feelings, information, or actions.

Associated Feelings

Persecution, subjugation.
Silencing, quashing.


Societal structures, discrimination.
Censorship, psychology (repressing emotions/thoughts).

Primary Focus

Groups/individuals being treated unjustly due to imbalance.
Act of halting or controlling a particular activity or thought.

Oppression and Suppression Definitions


Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment.
The dictatorship's oppression lasted for decades.


Stopping or restraining the growth or spread of something.
The suppression of wildfires is essential for protecting communities.


An unjust or excessive exercise of power.
Economic oppression often leads to uprisings and revolutions.


Preventing public knowledge or awareness.
The suppression of vital information could jeopardize public health.


A system where certain groups face unjust treatment or control.
The oppression of minority groups has been a significant concern throughout history.


The act of ending or stopping something by force.
The government's suppression of free speech angered many citizens.


The exercise of power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.
Oppression by the ruling elite led to widespread protests.


Deliberate exclusion of feelings or thoughts.
Emotional suppression can lead to psychological stress.


The action of oppressing; arbitrary and cruel exercise of power
A system of oppression.


Halting or inhibiting a particular action or activity.
The suppression of illegal trade is a focus for law enforcement agencies.


The state of being oppressed
Caught in the oppression of poverty.


The act of suppressing.


A feeling of being weighed down in mind or body
"Every time I entered my house, an oppression settled on me so heavy that I had to stand for minutes at a time in the doorway, gathering what strength I could find" (Erin McGraw). "One has ... to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression" (J.R.R. Tolkien).


The state of being suppressed.


The exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.


(Psychiatry) Conscious exclusion of unacceptable desires, thoughts, or memories from the mind.


The act of oppressing, or the state of being oppressed.
Extreme freedom is followed by extreme oppression, said Plato.


(Botany) The failure of an organ or part to develop.


A feeling of being oppressed.
Our oppression was lifted by the reappearance of the sun.


(Genetics) The inhibition of gene expression.


The act of oppressing, or state of being oppressed.


The act or instance of suppressing.


That which oppresses; a hardship or injustice; cruelty; severity; tyranny.


The state of being suppressed.


A sense of heaviness or obstruction in the body or mind; depression; dullness; lassitude; as, an oppression of spirits; an oppression of the lungs.
There gentle SleepFirst found me, and with soft oppression seizedMy drowsed sense.


(psychology) A process in which a person consciously excludes anxiety-producing thoughts, feelings, or memories.


Ravishment; rape.


(military) The entirety of acts aimed at stopping or preventing the enemy to execute such unwanted activities like firing, regrouping, observation or others.


The act of subjugating by cruelty;
The tyrant's oppression of the people


(of an eye) A subconscious adaptation by a person's brain to eliminate the symptoms of disorders of binocular vision such as strabismus, convergence insufficiency and aniseikonia.


The state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority:
After years of oppression they finally revolted


The act of suppressing, or the state of being suppressed; repression; as, the suppression of a riot, insurrection, or tumult; the suppression of truth, of reports, of evidence, and the like.


A feeling of being oppressed


Complete stoppage of a natural secretion or excretion; as, suppression of urine; - used in contradiction to retention, which signifies that the secretion or excretion is retained without expulsion.


The feeling of being weighed down or held back by severe and unfair force.
She felt oppression from societal expectations about her role as a woman.


Omission; as, the suppression of a word.


(botany) the failure to develop of some part or organ of a plant


The act of withholding or withdrawing some book or writing from publication or circulation;
A suppression of the newspaper


Forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority;
The suppression of heresy
The quelling of the rebellion
The stifling of all dissent


(psychology) the conscious exclusion of unacceptable thoughts or desires


Can individuals feel oppressed?

Yes, individuals can feel oppressed due to external factors or societal expectations.

Is suppression only related to actions?

No, suppression can relate to actions, feelings, and information.

What might be a cause for suppression in psychological terms?

Trauma, societal expectations, or negative experiences can cause individuals to suppress certain feelings or memories.

How does oppression manifest in society?

Through discriminatory laws, societal norms, or imbalances in opportunities and rights for certain groups.

What's a primary context where oppression is discussed?

Oppression is frequently discussed in the context of human rights and societal structures.

Can suppression refer to emotions?

Yes, suppression can refer to the conscious act of excluding unwanted feelings or thoughts.

Is oppression always intentional?

Oppression can be both intentional and a result of systemic or structural imbalances.

Does suppression always have a negative connotation?

Not always. Suppression can be seen as negative when discussing freedom, but can be positive in contexts like suppressing a fire or disease.

Is suppressing information the same as censoring it?

While similar, suppression often means preventing information from becoming public, while censorship involves removing or altering already public information.

Is oppression always overt?

No, oppression can be both overt (clearly noticeable) and covert (hidden or not obvious).

Can suppression be voluntary?

Yes, individuals might choose to suppress certain thoughts or emotions intentionally.

Can suppression occur in nature?

In metaphorical terms, yes. For instance, one might talk about the suppression of plant growth due to unfavorable conditions.

Does suppression imply intent?

Generally, yes. Suppression often involves a deliberate act to halt, control, or exclude something.

Can suppression be a form of oppression?

Yes, if suppression is used as a tool by those in power to control or silence others, it becomes a form of oppression.

How does oppression relate to power dynamics?

Oppression often results from an imbalance of power, where one group exerts dominance over another.

Can oppression exist without an oppressor?

While typically involving an oppressor, systemic oppression can exist due to ingrained societal structures, not just a singular entity.

What emotions are typically associated with oppression?

Feelings of subjugation, persecution, and powerlessness.

How might suppression appear in a political context?

In the form of censoring opposing views, controlling information flow, or silencing dissent.

Is there a relation between oppression and suppression?

While distinct, the two can intersect, such as when oppressive systems suppress dissenting voices or information.

How do literature and arts represent oppression?

Through narratives highlighting battles against unjust systems, marginalized voices, and calls for change.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons