In this country Internet censorship is quite _____. The government censors 80 percent of websites.

I have several things in mind but the best to me seem to be "drastic", "intense", or "high" (Oxford Dictionaries and Thesaurus). What would be an idiomatic option when describing extreme Internet censorship? (Wikipedia) What would be most sensible to my reader and have the most impact in the above example?

(Note that I have edited the content and order of the sentences from the original posting in response to comments and answers received.)

  • 9
    Oh, I see now. You’re not looking for a word for censorship, the blank is at the end of your quoted passage. You want a general word for severity. Ok, how about draconian? Fits the context nicely.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 26, 2018 at 13:49
  • 3
    Idiomatic, I think, is a red herring. It’s perfectly natural, but it’s not a set phrase or common pairing. For your purpose, you don’t want a common pairing; you want to make an impact. To use some hackneyed phrase would be counterproductive. It’s an intensifier (in the vernacular not grammatical sense) here. And yes, draconian carries connotations of extreme and bureaucratic overreach. For that reason, it’s often applied to government actions or in related contexts. Worth looking up the etymology, btw, really interesting.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 26, 2018 at 14:05
  • 1
    That said, if you’re really after the most common collocations for adj censorship”, here’s analysis from the COCA (so, using American writing specifically). If that link doesn’t work for you, here’s a screenshot. The top few words which have your sense of “strict” are: strict (#1 most frequent), heavy, outright, overt, and imposing (though this last might be in contexts meaning “the act of”, not “strict”, but it works for both). But I think this list demonstrates what I’m saying: “meh” words.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 26, 2018 at 14:14
  • 1
    That's the notation for the specific collocation search. I believe, but I am not sure, that it breaks down into location (_) which is an adjective (j) followed by the collocated word (*). But that notation was added automatically for me as I used the UI elements configure my search ("*censorship preceded immediately by an adjective"), using dropdowns and such. I'm sure the notation is documented somewhere on the BYU site, but I've never had to use it. I just use the widgets, and so far, it's met all my needs.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 26, 2018 at 14:43
  • 2
    You should also be aware that BYU has several other searchable corpora, which help focus searches on specific writing communities (American English, British English, contemporary writing on the web, early English books, etc etc etc). It's well worth the stunning $0 fee to sign up.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 26, 2018 at 15:37

10 Answers 10


"draconian" seems to fit perfectly.

The government censors 80 percent of websites. Internet censorship is draconian in this country.

  • draconian laws or measures are extremely harsh and severe.

  • Draconian is an adjective meaning great severity, that derives from Draco, an Athenian law scribe under whom small offenses had heavy punishments (Draconian laws).
    From Wikipedia

Etymology - draconian (adj.) 1759, "of or pertaining to Draco," the ancient Greek statesman; 1777, in reference to laws, "rigorous, extremely severe or harsh" (earlier Draconic, which is implied from 1640s). Draco is the Latinized form of Greek Drakon, name of the archon of Athens who laid down a code of laws for Athens c. 621 B.C.E. that mandated death as punishment for minor crimes. His name seems to mean literally "sharp-sighted" (see dragon).

  • Draco was the first recorded legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece. He replaced the prevailing system of oral law and blood feud by a written code to be enforced only by a court of law. Draco was the first democratic legislator, he was requested by the Athenian citizens to be a lawgiver for the city-state, but the citizens were fully unaware that Draco would establish harsh laws. Draco's written law was characterized by its harshness. To this day, the adjective draconian refers to similarly unforgiving rules or laws, in English and other European languages.
  • 1
    Not only does draconian fit, but "harsh" and "severe" are also great fits in the OP's sentence IMHO - possibly more idiomatic. To me, "draconian" implies severity above and beyond mere censorship, but that's an issue perhaps of connotations rather than definitions. While on the subject, I'd also expect to hear "draconian" applied to "censorship laws" rather than just "censorship" itself, but that may be simply my own biased opinion based on very little as far as evidence. The meaning is no doubt perfectly clear regardless. Oct 26, 2018 at 20:27
  • 3
    I'd argue that draconian generally refers to the punishment being severe, not the extent of the legislation. If the government cuts off your fingers for posting objectionable material then yeah, I'm good with calling it draconian. Here, it just seems like they're being a little overzealous.
    – A C
    Oct 27, 2018 at 0:06
  • You beat me to it @AC. I don't like draconian here. Heavy-handed would be a better choice IMO.
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 27, 2018 at 1:42
  • 2
    – stannius
    Oct 28, 2018 at 22:38
  • So the name Draco Malfoy is rather suitable for the character in Harry Potter ;-)
    – Lenne
    Oct 29, 2018 at 2:59

Orwellian, after the Ministry of Truth in the novel 1984:

A. adj. Characteristic or suggestive of the writings of George Orwell, esp. of the totalitarian state depicted in his dystopian account of the future, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949).

Totalitarian could work as well:

A. adj. Of or pertaining to a system of government which tolerates only one political party, to which all other institutions are subordinated, and which usually demands the complete subservience of the individual to the State.

  • 1
    I was halfway through writing an answer with "totalitarian" when I noticed it was in your post, so I've taken the liberty of putting in an edit request to add reference and definitions for you. In the future though, it'd help if you put them in your post when you post it.
    – scohe001
    Oct 26, 2018 at 20:38
  • "Orwellian" has acquired a meaning of "hypocrisy", from such institutions as the Ministry of Peace being in charge of war. Oct 29, 2018 at 3:47
  • @Acccumulation I think it’s more an implication of bald-faced lying. Although really it’s often used against political opponents as a vague, inchoate insult. It always implies, though, that someone is authoritatively declaring the opposite of the truth to be true and trying to intimidate everyone else into accepting it.
    – Davislor
    Oct 29, 2018 at 3:52

Your question was, "What would be an idiomatic option?" as to how to finish the sentence

"The government censors 80 percent of websites. In this country the Internet censorship is quite ....?"

I suggest "severe" (Merriam-Webster) for a single-word answer:

strict in judgment, discipline, or government; rigorous in restraint, punishment, or requirement.

Otherwise, your construction (as currently edited with the order of statements reversed) is idiomatic and good English. I would prefer to combine the two sentences into one:

In this country Internet censorship is severe: the government blocks access to 80 percent of websites.

This source, for instance, explains that

A colon instead of a semicolon may be used between independent clauses when the second sentence explains, illustrates, paraphrases, or expands on the first sentence.

However, stating it as two sentences is perfectly acceptable.

By the way, I love the word "draconian" (and up-voted the answer by @Centaurus as well), but depending on your audience it may not be as readily understandable (and therefore not as idiomatic) as a more common term like "severe."

  • 4
    While this is probably the way I'd write it too, this doesn't really answer the question, and should probably be a comment. Oct 26, 2018 at 18:40
  • "Severe" is also what sprung to my mind as far as being idiomatic. Oct 26, 2018 at 20:25
  • @Michael Seifert: Thank you for your comment. I hope my revisions have made my answer more acceptable. Oct 31, 2018 at 17:35

The government censors 80 percent of websites. In this country the Internet censorship is quite ....?

First point... should take out a 'the' to give

The government censors 80 percent of websites. In this country Internet censorship is quite ....?

I think Draconian is excellent as suggested in the accepted answer.

Other alternatives include


pervasive means that it is something you find everywhere and is very difficult to get away from. For example, mobile phones are quite pervasive in society.




The government censors 80 percent of websites. In this country Internet censorship is brutal.

and I agree with the answer that it is better to swap the order of these two sentences

  • +1 for heavy handed or brutal.
    – Cullub
    Oct 28, 2018 at 19:09

I think the punishment that befalls the people who are censored is relevant here. If offending sites are merely blocked, that's bad enough but if the people who wrote the material are imprisoned or executed, that is clearly worse. "Draconian" seems appropriate if the authors are imprisoned but "widespread" or "rampant" may be sufficient if there is no punishment beyond blocking the site. If authors are executed, I might use "murderous" or "Stalinist" to invoke the repressions faced by people who ran afoul of the Communist Party in Stalin's day.


When I think of a government enacting laws in order to enforce what it thinks is best for the people or for the maintenance of social morality and integrity, I think of “paternalism”, adjective “paternalistic”.

n (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the attitude or policy of a government or other authority that manages the affairs of a country, company, community, etc, in the manner of a father, esp in usurping individual responsibility and the liberty of choice
Collins English Dictionary

Paternalism is action limiting a person's or group's liberty or autonomy which is intended to promote their own good.
Wikipedia article on paternalistic

"paternalistic" could fit in your sentence, as in:

In this country the Internet censorship is quite paternalistic.

However I think, using this word, it would sound better as:

The government censors 80 percent of websites. Its censorship policies reflect a highly paternalistic mode of governance.


I would use the word "egregious."

e·gre·gious /əˈɡrējəs/Submit adjective 1. outstandingly bad; shocking. "egregious abuses of copyright" synonyms: shocking, appalling, terrible, awful, horrendous, frightful, atrocious, abominable, abhorrent, outrageous; More


I would use suppressive.

To me, draconian suggests harsh punishment. I wouldn't consider censorship to be draconian.

In this country Internet censorship is quite suppressive. The government censors 80 percent of websites.

Suppress (from Merriam Webster)

1 : to put down by authority or force

2 : to keep from public knowledge: such as

a : to keep secret

b : to stop or prohibit the publication or revelation of suppress the test results

Authoritarian Favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.

Draconian seems to suggest punishment. Authoritarian suggests controlling rather than punishing


In addition to considering draconian as suggested by several other posters, perhaps "robust" or "profound" could work if suggesting that the censorship is severe as in far-reaching or very prolific.

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