evil eye

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Hamsas or Hands of Fatima are talismans used to ward off the evil eye (sense 1).

From Middle English ivel eie (evil eye; envy),[1] from Old English eage yfel, a calque of Latin oculus malus, from oculus (eye) + malus (bad, evil, wicked; destructive, hurtful, injurious; unfavourable, unlucky).[2][3]



evil eye (plural evil eyes)

  1. A wicked look conveying dislike or envy that in many cultures is believed to be able to cause bad luck or injury; also, the ability to cause bad luck or injury through such a look, supposed to be possessed by some people.
    Synonyms: bad eye, (slang) evils, evil look, the eye
    • 1834, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “The Blind Flower-girl, and the Beauty of Fashion.—The Athenian’s Confession.—The Reader’s Introduction to Arbaces of Egypt.”, in The Last Days of Pompeii. [], volume I, London: Richard Bentley, []; successor to Henry Colburn, →OCLC, book I, page 25:
      Each of the young men, in saluting the new-comer, made mechanically, and with care to conceal it from him, a slight gesture or sign with their fingers; for Arbaces, the Egyptian, was supposed to possess the fatal gift of the evil eye.
    • 1842, Charles Anthon, “FA′SCINUM”, in William Smith, editor, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities [], 3rd American edition, New York, N.Y., Cincinnati, Oh.: American Book Company, published 1843, →OCLC, pages 431–432, column 1:
      The ὀφθαλμὸς βάσκανος, or evil eye, is frequently mentioned by ancient writers. [] Various amulets were used to avert the influence of the evil eye. The most common of these appears to have been the phallus, called by the Romans fascinum, which was hung round the necks of children (turpicula res).
    • 1936, Rollo Ahmed, “The Ancient Magic of the East”, in The Black Art, London: Senate, Studio Editions, published 1994, →ISBN, page 26:
      A common dread was the evil eye, and the chief charm against it was in the form of a knotted cord woven by a "wise woman".
  2. The charm used to ward off the evil eye; a nazar.
    • 2017, Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire, Bloomsbury (2018), page 11:
      Isma laughed, but Hira drew her shoulders in tighter, reached out to touch the evil eye that hung on her wall and which Isma had always assumed to be merely decorative.
  3. (often humorous) A look conveying disapproval, envy, hostility, etc.
    Synonyms: bad eye, black look, death glare, death stare, dirty look, (slang) evils, shit eye, side eye, stank eye, stink eye
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Mark 7:21–23, column 1:
      For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed euill thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, / Thefts, couetouſneſſe, wickedneſſe, deceit, laſciuiouſneſſe, an euill eye, blaſphemie, pride, fooliſhneſſe: / All theſe euill things come from within, and defile the man.
    • 1705, J[oseph] Addison, “Venice”, in Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, &c. in the Years 1701, 1702, 1703, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 84:
      [A] Noble Venetian, vvho is ſtill a Merchant, told me, they vvill ſpeedily find out ſome Method to redreſs it; probably by making a free Port, for they look vvith an Evil Eye upon Leghorne, that dravvs to it moſt of the Veſſels bound for Italy.
    • 1964 February 18, Lionel Hampton, Leonard Feather (lyrics and music), “Evil Gal Blues”, in Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington, performed by Aretha Franklin, New York, N.Y.: Columbia Records, →OCLC:
      If you tell me, "Good morning" / I'm gonna tell you, "That's a lie" / If you say I'm old, baby / I'm gonna give you the evil eye

Usage notes[edit]

Often used in the form “to give [someone] the evil eye”.

Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ “ivel eie” under “ivel, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ See, for example, Defensor (11th century) “De Cogitationibus = be geþancu(m) [Of Thoughts]”, in [anonymous], transl., E. W. Rhodes, editor, Defensor’s Liber Scintillarum with an Interlinear Anglo-Saxon Version Made Early in the Eleventh Century [] (Original Series; 93), London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N[icholas] Trübner and Co., [], published 1889, →OCLC, page 137:[U]nclænnyss eage yfel hyrwincga ofermodignyss dysignyss easse þas yfelu fram innon forðstæppað ⁊ hi gemænsumiað mann / [I]npudicitia. oculus malus. blasphémia. superbia. stultitia. omnia haec mala ab íntus procédunt et commúnicant hominem; []Lewdness. Evil eye. Blasphemy. Pride. Stupidity. All these evils proceed from within and defile man. [Mark 7:22–23.]
  3. ^ evil eye, n.”, in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present, reproduced from Stuart Berg Flexner, editor in chief, Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd edition, New York, N.Y.: Random House, 1993, →ISBN.

Further reading[edit]