How do “oppressive” and “repressive” differ?

In 2002, I asked Merriam-Webster the following question. Kory L. Stamper replied as follows.

Q: How do “oppressive” and “repressive” differ?

A: “Oppressive” and “repressive” each can refer to keeping something from acting, but each word has a very different meaning. “Oppressive” in that sense implies a weighing down or a burdening of someone or something by an external force. “Repressive,” on the other hand, refers to subduing something using either external force or internal control.

Each word also has meanings that are not shared: “oppressive” also means “tyrannical” and “overpowering or depressing the spirits”; “repressive” has specialized applications in psychology and developmental studies that “oppressive” do not.

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