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See also: Devil


The devil, as depicted by Gustave Doré in John Milton's poem Paradise Lost

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English devil, devel, deovel, from Old English dēofol, dēoful, from earlier dīobul (devil), from Latin diabolus, ultimately from Ancient Greek διάβολος (diábolos, false accuser, slanderer), also as "Satan" (in Jewish/Christian usage, translating Biblical Hebrew שָׂטָן (śātān)), from διαβάλλω (diabállō, to slander), literally “to throw across”, from διά (diá, through, across) + βάλλω (bállō, throw). The Old English word was probably adopted under influence of Latin diabolus (itself from the Greek). Other Germanic languages adopted the word independently: compare Saterland Frisian Düüwel (devil), West Frisian duvel (devil), Dutch duivel, duvel (devil), German Low German Düvel (devil), German Teufel (devil), Bavarian Teifl (devil), Danish djævel (devil), Swedish djävul (devil) (older: djefvul, Old Swedish diævul, Old Norse djǫfull). Doublet of diable, diablo, and diabolus.


  • enPR: dĕvʹəl, IPA(key): /ˈdɛvəl/
  • (rare, dated) enPR: dĕvʹîl, IPA(key): /ˈdɛvɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛvəl

Proper noun[edit]

the devil

  1. (theology) The chief devil; Satan.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:Satan
    Antonym: God

Alternative forms[edit]



devil (plural devils)

  1. (theology) An evil creature, the objectification of a hostile and destructive force.
    Synonym: demon
    Antonyms: angel, god
  2. (folklore) A fictional image of a man, usually red or orange in skin color; with a set of horns on his head, a pointed goatee and a long tail and carrying a pitchfork; that represents evil and portrayed to children in an effort to discourage bad behavior.
  3. The bad part of the conscience; the opposite to the angel.
    Antonyms: angel, conscience
    The devil in me wants to let him suffer.
  4. A wicked or naughty person, or one who harbors reckless, spirited energy, especially in a mischievous way; usually said of a young child.
    Synonyms: imp, rascal, scamp, scoundrel
    Antonyms: angel, saint
    Those two kids are devils in a toy store.
  5. A thing that is awkward or difficult to understand or do.
    Synonyms: bastard, bitch, (UK) bugger, stinker
    Antonyms: (US) cakewalk, piece of cake
    That math problem was a devil.
  6. (euphemistic, with an article, as an intensifier) Hell.
    Synonyms: (euphemistic) deuce, (euphemistic) dickens, (vulgar) fuck, heck, hell
    What in the devil is that?
    What the devil is that?
    She is having a devil of a time fixing it.
    You can go to the devil for all I care.
  7. A person, especially a man; used to express a particular opinion of him, usually in the phrases poor devil and lucky devil.
    Synonyms: (UK) bugger, (used of a woman) cow, (UK) sod
  8. A printer's assistant.
    Synonym: printer's devil
    • 2010, Andrea Levy, The Long Song, Tinder Press (2017), page 381:
      For he will not leave his listener to dwell upon sorrow when the print office beckons and he can show you what a good little devil he became.
  9. (India) A poltergeist that haunts printing works.
  10. A dust devil.
    • 1877, H. F. Blandford, Indian Meteorologist's Vade-mecum, page 140:
      The formation of tornados and water-spouts is very probably identical with that of dust-storms and "devils," viz., a sudden disturbance of the vertical equilibrium of the atmosphere, where by an upward rush of air is generated, which rapidly becomes spiral.
    • 1885, Richard F. Burton, chapter XII, in The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, volume I, The Burton Club, page 114 footnote:
      There are few sights more appalling than a sandstorm in the desert, the "Zauba'ah" as the Arabs call it. Devils, or pillars of sand, vertical and inclined, measuring a thousand feet high[.]
  11. (dialectal, in compounds) A barren, unproductive and unused area.[1][2]
    devil strip
  12. (cooking) A dish, as a bone with the meat, broiled and excessively peppered; a grill with Cayenne pepper.
  13. A machine for tearing or cutting rags, cotton, etc.
  14. A Tasmanian devil.
    • 1999, Julia Leigh, The Hunter, Faber & Faber 2012, p. 32:
      He removes his food, water, and torch from the pack and then pushes it to the far end of the tent – no devil is going to rip his pack apart tonight.
    • 2008, Joyce L. Markovics, Tasmanian Devil: Nighttime Scavenger, page 8:
      In the 1800s, for example, workers at a wool company were scared that the devils would attack their sheep.
  15. (cycling, slang) An endurance event where riders who fall behind are periodically eliminated.
  16. (nautical) Ellipsis of devil seam.: The seam between garboard strake and the keel (a seam on wooden boats)
    Coordinate terms: between the devil and the deep blue sea, devil to pay

Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from devil (noun)

Related terms[edit]


  • Tok Pisin: tewel
  • Chuukese: tefin


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


devil (third-person singular simple present devils, present participle (US) deviling or devilling, simple past and past participle (US) deviled or devilled)

  1. To make like a devil; to invest with the character of a devil.
  2. To annoy or bother.
    Synonyms: bedevil; see also Thesaurus:annoy
  3. To work as a ‘devil’; to work for a lawyer or writer without fee or recognition.
    • 1978, Lawrence Durrell, Livia (Avignon Quintet), Faber & Faber, published 1992, page 401:
      He did not repeat the scathing estimate of her character by Quatrefages, who at that time spent one afternoon a week devilling at the Consulate, keeping the petty-cash box in order.
  4. To prepare (food) with spices, making it spicy:
    1. To grill with cayenne pepper; to season highly in cooking, as with pepper.
      • 1912, Stephen Leacock, “The Hostelry of Mr. Smith”, in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, page 28:
        [] ; you could watch a buckwheat pancake whirled into existence under your eyes and see fowls' legs devilled, peppered, grilled, and tormented till they lost all semblance of the original Mariposa chicken.
    2. To finely grind cooked ham or other meat with spices and condiments.
    3. To prepare a sidedish of shelled halved boiled eggs to whose extracted yolks are added condiments and spices, which mixture then is placed into the halved whites to be served.
      She's going to devil four dozen eggs for the picnic.

Usage notes[edit]

  • UK usage doubles the l in the inflected forms "devilled" and "devilling"; US usage generally does not.

Derived terms[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dictionary of Regional American English
  2. ^ Word Detective: Tales from the berm

Further reading[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of devel