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Benito Mussolini (on the left) and Adolf Hitler (on the right) were two dictators that most people consider very bad.

The word dictator or despot in modern times is used to describe the absolute ruler (other than a king) of a country, who uses force and fear to keep himself and his friends in authority, and can effectively make laws all by himself. A country that is ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship. The word "dictator" is from the Roman Republic where a man would be given absolute power for one year to get the country out of an emergency.

Some dictators gained political power by winning an election and cancelling new elections once they took power.

It is not always clear whether a leader is a dictator or not. Some leaders got into power by elections, but sometimes they gave false election results.

Kings and emperors often use force and fear too, but usually they are not called dictators. This is because kings and emperors have some reason for being in power (usually their father was king or emperor), but a dictator gained power himself. Also, when someone is king or emperor of a country, usually there were several kings or emperors before them. A dictator often creates the job of dictator by gaining power.

Some people call leaders dictators because they simply do not like them and they seem powerful.

Some historic dictators

Some people who are dictators now

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