Definition of devilish in US English:



  • 1Like or appropriate to a devil in evil and cruelty.

    ‘devilish tortures’
    • ‘The association of the fox with the devil through shared vices is carried forward to cumulate in the portrayal of the Jesuit as a devilish, vicious and cunning character.’
    • ‘The makeup for the Djinn character is creepy and evil, like some devilish creature from an R-rated version of Star Wars.’
    • ‘The forces of evil have produced a devilish tool whereby spam can be sent to thousands of Windows users in minutes, in the guise of system alerts.’
    • ‘Northern Ireland and the Balkans demonstrate that the dark side of religion is truly devilish!’
    • ‘She lucked out here with a better cast, and Malkovich is clearly having too much fun playing the villainous, devilish aesthete Ripley.’
    • ‘Thanatos, the horrifying creature of death and decay, turned a devilish head towards the hero.’
    • ‘He branded them racist, devilish, and accused them of shamelessly exploiting black artists.’
    • ‘The days are gone of National's tired old mantra of attacking unionists as if they were evil and devilish.’
    • ‘Mirrors were used as ornamentation, but were believed to also blind and confuse devilish spirits, to protect their children from the evil eye.’
    • ‘Her contract with Lucifer didn't force her to befriend those that were evil simply because they were devilish types.’
    • ‘With a kind of devilish glee he devises for himself ever more terrible punishments, tortures, eviscerations.’
    • ‘It also kept the idea of evil as a devilish personal force prowling around ready to get into you.’
    • ‘What new devilish inventions are being worked on in that vast network that this nation has assiduously devoted to weapons of mass destruction for more than half a century?’
    • ‘In Apostasia, against a grid of graffiti they glower within black silhouettes that give them a devilish quality.’
    • ‘It is an atmosphere of terror and bloodshed, a devilish scene of chaos, a barbaric game which is not governed by human discipline, rules and regulations of the sport.’
    • ‘His face is now a cruel devilish beast's with huge fangs.’
    • ‘Catherine Gill gives a stunning performance as the wickedly devilish sith that toys with Brian and manipulates his every move.’
    • ‘The dastardly act which has caused so much pain and misery to the American people and indeed all peace lovers around the globe, was barbaric and devilish.’
    • ‘He branded Sony racist and devilish, and accused it of shamelessly exploiting black artists.’
    • ‘And what is this Black Box, if not an epicentre of devilish debauchery.’
    wicked, evil, accursed, sinful, iniquitous, nefarious, vile, foul, abominable, unspeakable, loathsome, monstrous, atrocious, heinous, hideous, odious, horrible, horrifying, shocking, appalling, dreadful, awful, terrible, ghastly, abhorrent, despicable, damnable, villainous, shameful, depraved, perverted, ungodly, dark, black, black-hearted, immoral, amoral
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    1. 1.1 Mischievous and rakish.
      ‘a wide, devilish grin’
      • ‘It was a privilege to have known Jack - shy, unassuming but with a devilish sense of humour.’
      • ‘He's got shocking red hair, a devilish grin, twinkling eyes and a cheeky appearance.’
      • ‘Then they give me a knowing grin, or a devilish wink.’
      • ‘‘Now that you're one short,’ Armando said with a devilish grin as he watched the car depart.’
      • ‘‘That gives me a great idea,’ she said, with a devilish grin.’
      • ‘A figure clad in a black leather jacket called out from the next table chuckled and turned towards the two girls, revealing an devilish, cheeky grin.’
      • ‘The apparent smile on my face, despite my weary state, spoke of signs of contentment, even a return to that mischievous and devilish state of mind.’
      • ‘A devilish grin flickered across Lysje's face at the thought.’
      • ‘For some strange reason, he grinned… a very devilish kind of smile.’
      • ‘When I meet Scott at the Deauville Film Festival in France, it is as if he has just walked off the movie set - he has both Stifler's devilish grin and sense of humour.’
      • ‘She has a very cheeky, devilish grin and I wanted her to look like my friend Lauran - I don't know if I managed it but that's certainly who she's based on.’
      • ‘Suddenly his confused face formed into a devilish grin.’
      • ‘A devilish grin appeared on Jason's lips as he remember how he had tricked her into tasting one of his father's home-grown peppers.’
      • ‘Angie turned to see Maya standing there with a devilish grin.’
      • ‘He has a great sense of humour, and there is a devilish wit about him.’
      • ‘At the same time, it sets up a clear formula, so that we can delight in the heroics of the good guys and the devilish mischief of our main man.’
      • ‘I can just imagine the devilish grin on Papa's face when he paid the man.’
      • ‘She picks up a pillow, a devilish grin on her face.’
      • ‘Shelley and Stockbridge savour the devilish humour, yet bring out the inner sadness too, and their pacing of the all-important second scene is a joy too, the final cloud of cushion feathers dancing to the waves of applause.’
      • ‘With a devilish grin, he points the water bottle at her.’
      diabolical, diabolic, fiendish, satanic, demonic, demoniac, demoniacal, mephistophelian
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    2. 1.2 Very difficult to deal with or use.
      ‘it turned out to be a devilish job’
      • ‘In this game, the player must navigate a devilish labyrinth fighting many evil turbanized sword wielding fiends and avoiding razor sharp spikes of death.’
      • ‘The more T-nuts you insert - try to place at least three or four per square foot - the easier it will be to rearrange your holds into fresh and ever more devilish configurations.’
      • ‘Dave Thomas designed the 18-hole course, which has received lots of accolades for its undulating fairways, devilish bunkers and spectacular water cascades.’
      • ‘It's a notoriously devilish problem, but from an information flow point of view all of the bodies are part of one object, albeit a generally inscrutable one.’
      • ‘I was fortunate enough to be running SpinSkins Kevlar tire liners which did a first class job of fending off those devilish thorns.’
      • ‘It seems that devilish productivity is wreaking havoc with jobs both at home and abroad.’
      • ‘The answer he supplied was fairly accurate: swirling wind and devilish opponent, both of whom made life extremely difficult.’
      • ‘I've wanted to test these ideas for years, but had a devilish time coming up with an appropriate experiment.’
      difficult, tricky, ticklish, troublesome, thorny, awkward, problematic, problem, impossible, messy
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dated, informal
  • as submodifier Very; extremely.

    ‘a devilish clever chap’
    • ‘Willetts does a noted comic turn reeling off the complexities of Gordon Brown's devilish clever schemes.’
    • ‘Dundee's skills were evident as languid Sara turned the Aberdeen defence, Caballero played devilish deft passes and the diminutive white booted Novo proved a nagging menace.’
    • ‘There seems to be a wild idea revolving around in the heart of government that we were part a devilish clever plot to blacken them.’
    • ‘Yorkshiremen can be devilish thrawn but they often get things right.’
    • ‘They sure need them because it's devilish cold in winter on Thassos and the houses are structured accordingly, with small windows, vast fireplaces and slanting roofs to shrug off the snow.’