evil

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English[edit]

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A stereotypical evil man. This is an artistic representation of the purposely distinctive visage of villains, initially from the stage plays of the 1880s.

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English evel, ivel, uvel, from Old English yfel, from Proto-Germanic *ubilaz (compare Saterland Frisian eeuwel, Dutch euvel, Low German övel, German übel), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂upélos, diminutive of *h₂wep-, *h₂wap- (treat badly) (compare Hittite [script needed] (huwappi, to mistreat, harass), [script needed] (huwappa, evil, badness)), or alternatively from *upélos (evil, literally going over or beyond (acceptable limits)), from Proto-Indo-European *upo, *up, *eup (down, up, over).

Pronunciation[edit]

  • enPR: ē-vəl, ē-vĭl, IPA(key): /ˈiːvɪl/, /ˈiːvəl/
  • Hyphenation: evil
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːvəl

Adjective[edit]

evil (comparative eviller or eviler or more evil, superlative evillest or evilest or most evil)

  1. Intending to harm; malevolent.
    an evil plot to kill innocent people
    • 1866, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters, Chapter 47,[1]
      For a good while the Miss Brownings were kept in ignorance of the evil tongues that whispered hard words about Molly.
    • 1916, Zane Grey, The Border Legion, New York: Harper & Bros., Chapter 10, p. 147,[2]
      He looked at her shapely person with something of the brazen and evil glance that had been so revolting to her in the eyes of those ruffians.
    • 2006, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Wizard of the Crow, New York: Pantheon, Book Three, Section II, Chapter 3, p. 351,[3]
      “Before this, I never had any cause to suspect my wife of any conspiracy.”
      “You mean it never crossed your mind that she might have been told to whisper evil thoughts in your ear at night?”
  2. Morally corrupt.
    Do you think that companies that engage in animal testing are evil?
  3. Unpleasant, foul (of odour, taste, mood, weather, etc.).
    • 1660, John Harding (translator), Paracelsus his Archidoxis, London: W.S., Book 7, “Of an Odoriferous Specifick,” p. 100,[7]
      An Odoriferous Specifick [] is a Matter that takes away Diseases from the Sick, no otherwise then as Civet drives away the stinck of Ordure by its Odour; for you are to observe, That the Specifick doth permix it self with this evil Odour of the Dung; and the stink of the Dung cannot hurt, no[r] abide there []
    • 1897, H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man, Chapter 18,[8]
      He awoke in an evil temper []
    • 1937, Robert Byron, The Road to Oxiana, London: Macmillan, Part V, “Mazar-i-Sherif,” p. 282,[9]
      It was an evil day, sticky and leaden: Oxiana looked as colourless and suburban as India.
    • 1958, Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana, Penguin, 1979, Part Four, Chapter 1, p. 125,[10]
      He herded them into a small and evil toilet and then through a window.
    • 1993, Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries, Toronto: Random House of Canada, Chapter One, p. 39,[11]
      Everyone in the tiny, crowded, hot, and evil-smelling kitchen [] has been invited to participate in a moment of history.
  4. Producing or threatening sorrow, distress, injury, or calamity; unpropitious; calamitous.
    • c. 1590, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, Act V, Scene 6,[12]
      The owl shrieked at thy birth,—an evil sign;
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Deuteronomy 22.19,[13]
      [] he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel:
    • 1671, John Milton, Samson Agonistes in Paradise Regain’d, to which is added Samson Agonistes, London: John Starkey, p. 89, lines 438-439,[14]
      A little stay will bring some notice hither,
      For evil news rides post, while good news baits.
    • 1931, Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth, New York: Modern Library, 1944, Chapter 15, p. 122,[15]
      [] with bandits and robbers roving over the land in these evil times of famine and war, how can it be said that this one or that stole anything? Hunger makes thief of any man.”
  5. (obsolete) Having harmful qualities; not good; worthless or deleterious.
    an evil beast; an evil plant; an evil crop
  6. (computing, programming, slang) undesirable; harmful; bad practice
    Global variables are evil; storing processing context in object member variables allows those objects to be reused in a much more flexible way.

Synonyms[edit]

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Antonyms[edit]

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Noun[edit]

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evil (countable and uncountable, plural evils)

  1. Moral badness; wickedness; malevolence; the forces or behaviors that are the opposite or enemy of good.
    • Bible, Ecclesiastes. ix. 3
      The heart of the sons of men is full of evil.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 16, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      The preposterous altruism too! [] Resist not evil. It is an insane immolation of self—as bad intrinsically as fakirs stabbing themselves or anchorites warping their spines in caves scarcely large enough for a fair-sized dog.
    The evils of society include murder and theft.
    Evil lacks spirituality, hence its need for mind control.
  2. Anything which impairs the happiness of a being or deprives a being of any good; anything which causes suffering of any kind to sentient beings; injury; mischief; harm.
  3. (obsolete) A malady or disease; especially in the phrase king's evil (scrofula).
    • (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
    • Addison
      He [Edward the Confessor] was the first that touched for the evil.

Antonyms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Translations[edit]

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Anagrams[edit]