Why are dictators referred to as strongmen?

Why are dictators referred to as “strongmen”? There’s nothing strong or courageous about literally jailing or killing people who disagree with you. So how did that term come about?

And how do we switch it to “cowardly”? Cowardly dictator.

I guarantee, for example Dentures Donnie would love, or loved, being referred to as a strongman, i.e. dictator.

Access to guns and people willing to use them.

It’s just a phrase that doesn’t necessarily mean physically strong. Charisma, intelligence and cunning are also big attributes of “strongmen”.

However, most of the well known dictators in history were able to reach the top in very cut-throat societies, and that is always impressive.


Strong men with same meaning that Mafia bosses: they have the power, hold it, and use and it.

And some time, it is not clear who is the boss, for instance because there is a junta or a group of leaders . when you say that X is the strong man of such country or organization, you mean beyond what can be seen.

I’ve never heard of that. That’s a new one on me.




  1. Someone who performs feats of strength, sometimes in competitions or in a circus.

  2. A forceful or brutal person, usually a ruler or tyrant.

Open in Oxford dictionary

[Political strongman - Wikipedia]

An exemple:

[Than Shwe - Wikipedia]

strongman by Oxford langages


  1. a man of great physical strength, especially one who performs feats of strength as a form of entertainment.

“a fairground scene with acrobats, a strongman, and fire-eating”

  • a leader who rules by the exercise of threats, force, or violence.

“the country was led by a succession of military strongmen who erased dissent”

So why do we refer to them as strongmen? Strong obviously is a positive term in our culture, strong willed, physical strength, etc. Why would that be associated with cowardly, generally unintelligent (or they wouldn’t need such tactics) people? There must be some cultural aspects that lead to it. Versus say strongman referring to great compromisers or negotiators, people who led countries by consensus and reason (for the most part of course).

Maybe you’ll recognize some of the people on this list, who have been referred to as strongmen:

Here’s a preview - Hitler, Mussolini, Putin.

I just thought their behaviour was indicative of their size and they were trying to make up for it. Much like how the dotard acts, because he’s probably making up for his size. Back in Hitler and Mussolini days they didn’t have huge trucks to make up for their size, like they do today. I bet the dotard and Putin both have F250s or bigger trucks, if there’s such a thing, somewhere. At least, in my circles, we believe the bigger the truck the smaller the man, who acts like a power hungry, dominating jerk. We don’t call them strong men.

I recognize all of them and if we aren’t talking about the size of their trucks, we just call them dictators, not strong men. Why call them strong when they are that insecure that they become dictators?

Putin has a 700 million dollar super-yacht with gold faucets and anti-aircraft guns.

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Mercy! He’s really making up for his size insecurity.

:rofl: It does provide some insight into the guy’s mental state.

Let’s go boating and see if we can shoot down a few planes while sunbathing. :partying_face:

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Sounds you’re making a moral argument, e.g., we should not use positive terms to refer to evil people. Very wholesome attitude that might work in Disneyland, but that doesn’t change the fact that dictators are often brave and intelligent. Dictators get things done.

That’s just an old wives tale. Dictators are no different from anyone else in physical stature. Some are big some, are small.

Exactly. The small ones make up for it with big stuff like F250s and yachts.

Yes a moral argument. So you’re saying that’s okay by you? That dictators “get things done” by mass murder, incarceration, etc.? Or rather, that we should not try to make moral arguments about changing perceptions about dictators?

The point is moral arguments don’t change reality, even though it is human nature to insult people we hate. A dictator may be a bag of manure but that doesn’t make them weak or dumb or whatever else.

No. A lot of big men buy these things and a lot of little men do not.

SMH You don’t get it. Too bad. To explain it would ruin it.