‘Repression' vs 'Suppression': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 24, 2023

‘Repression’ and ‘suppression’ sound similar, but what’s the difference between the two words? We’ll cover that in this article, plus teach you how to use them both in a sentence correctly.

In short, ‘repression’ means unconsciously blocking unwanted thoughts or impulses. ‘Suppression’ is voluntarily blocking unwanted thoughts.

Therefore, they should never be used interchangeably. 

‘What is Repression?’ – Difference Between Repression and Suppression

As you just learned, there’s a subtle difference between these two words. While ‘repression’ means unconsciously blocking out negative or unwanted thoughts and impulses, ‘suppression’ means blocking out negative or unwanted thoughts voluntarily or on purpose.

As you can see, these terms might sound similar, but they don’t mean the same thing (similar to homophones), which means they don’t qualify as homophones.

‘Repression’ vs. ‘Suppression’ in Psychology: Differences

The difference between ‘repression’ and ‘suppression’ is that the former is not voluntary, while the latter is.

Therefore, you should avoid using these terms interchangeably, as they’re pretty close to antonyms.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Repression’

According to Merriam-Webster, ‘repression’ is the process or act of repressing.

It means excluding – or stopping or preventing something.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Suppression’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘suppression’ is the act of suppressing or the state of being suppressed.

It means trying not to think about something or trying to avoid the urge to do something.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Repression’ and ‘Suppression’ 

Wondering how to pronounce the words correctly? Here’s a short guide.

  • To pronounce the word ‘repression,’ use this phonetic spelling: RI-PRESH-UHN
  • To pronounce the word ‘suppression,’ use this phonetic spelling: SUH-PRESH-UHN

How to Use ‘Repression’ in a Sentence

Now that we know what both words mean and how to pronounce them let’s take a look at how to use them in a sentence, starting with ‘repression.’

  • That city’s survived over 100 years of political repression.
  • No amount of repression could keep them from the truth.
  • It’s no secret that everyone living there was subject to extreme repression in the 1960s.
  • My mom’s repression of her experiences is obvious. She can’t even function normally.

How to Use ‘Suppression’ in a Sentence 

Now, let’s see some examples of how to use ‘suppression’ in a sentence.

  • The suppression of office files was intentional. Someone was trying to hide something.
  • Let’s not start with suppression of information to the public. They need to know what’s going on.
  • There’s been a deliberate suppression of information when it comes to what’s happening in lower-income neighborhoods and power plants.
  • If everyone knew what was happening, the suppression of information would have to stop.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Repression’ and ‘Suppression’

To recap, we know that ‘repression’ and ‘suppression’ are two different words that mean two different things. Although they might sound the same, they’re not the same and should not be used interchangeably.

If you ever get stuck, you can always come back here to refresh your memory. We’ve got a ton of content dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases in the English language. Go check it out whenever you get a chance.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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