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1 a : an intentional or criminally negligent act that causes pain and suffering [ to animals] [ to children]
b : mistreatment or neglect that causes pain and suffering compare abuse NOTE: Cruelty is an aggravating circumstance to a crime (as murder).
2 : a spouse's conduct that endangers life or health or causes mental suffering or fear called also cruel and inhuman treatment NOTE: Cruelty is a ground for divorce.
Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.