Definition of public enemy in English:

public enemy


  • 1A notorious wanted criminal.

    ‘yesterday's public enemies and villains have a habit of becoming present-day cult figures’
    • ‘Foxhunting is nothing more than an excuse for a bunch of bloodthirsty twisted people to go out and get pleasure out of torture without going to jail and without being labelled public enemies by the government.’
    • ‘AD 68: Roman Emperor Nero committed suicide, aged 32, after the Senate had declared him a public enemy.’
    • ‘First, clause 19 which mentions acts of public enemies, pirates and assailing thieves.’
    • ‘They pronounced the bet illegal, since, on the one hand, an interest was created in the preservation of the life of a public enemy, and, on the other hand, an interest in his assassination.’
    • ‘The condemnation visited upon the memory of a public enemy - in this case Octavian's defeated rival - and the consequent destruction of his images appear to have been more than usually effective.’
    1. 1.1A person or thing regarded as the greatest threat to a group or community.
      ‘he identified inflation as public enemy number one’
      • ‘In fact they would see me as public enemy number one.’
      • ‘The man regarded by many traditional art lovers as public enemy number one for his support of the Young British Artists who showed beds, sharks and sheep in place of canvases has made a remarkable about-turn.’
      • ‘It is clearly a product of the post-war era in which inflation was public enemy number one throughout the Western world.’
      • ‘Slugs and snails have been public enemy number one in gardens for years.’
      • ‘Therefore our task as the new public enemy number one is to make sure we don't lose our human face, to show them that do-gooders are so inclined because they are compassionate people, not because they are a snobby bunch of intellectuals.’


public enemy