Definition of evil in US English:

evil

adjective

  • 1Profoundly immoral and malevolent.

    ‘his evil deeds’
    ‘no man is so evil as to be beyond redemption’
    • ‘A girl can't even get the satisfaction of contemplating evil deeds in a properly villainous position these days!’
    • ‘His atrocities and evil deeds invited the curse.’
    • ‘The act of killing thousands of innocent people is profoundly evil and we rightly abhor it.’
    • ‘Since then, I have heard Destiny call us evil, abnormal and immoral.’
    • ‘‘These people have to repent their evil deeds and show they have repented,’ he said.’
    • ‘The Queen's Park sex attacker has already told friends or family about his evil deed, according to the man leading the hunt to catch him.’
    • ‘She too is evil, dark and wicked and she too will pay the price if she does die.’
    • ‘Not to show overwhelming strength is immoral, since it will induce evildoers to perform more evil deeds because they'll think they can get away with it.’
    • ‘We read about someone who does evil deeds and is of wrong view, and who has an unhappy rebirth.’
    • ‘If it had not been for that day, she'd still be living with her mother, not knowing anything about her evil grandfather and his wicked schemes.’
    • ‘A man is either good, bad or evil, moral or immoral.’
    • ‘She will then be able to turn around and say - everyone knows of this person, everyone has heard of this person, and his evil deeds that I allege he's done.’
    wicked, bad, wrong, morally wrong, wrongful, immoral, sinful, ungodly, unholy, foul, vile, base, ignoble, dishonourable, corrupt, iniquitous, depraved, degenerate, villainous, nefarious, sinister, vicious, malicious, malevolent, demonic, devilish, diabolic, diabolical, fiendish, dark, black-hearted
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    1. 1.1 (of a force or spirit) embodying or associated with the forces of the devil.
      ‘we have been driven out of the house by this evil spirit’
      • ‘He precedes the dancers and it is his duty to crack the whip to drive away any evil spirits or forces of evil.’
      • ‘It can also take the form of an exorcism, where the treatment is meant to drive out an evil spirit or devil from the victim.’
      • ‘Does that influence your view on what these folk are seeing - whether evil spirits, or unexplained forces, or loved ones from beyond?’
      • ‘The captain of the bad team is the devil, assisted by demons, evil spirits and politicians.’
      • ‘Tradition associates dances with the casting out of evil spirits.’
      • ‘The trees that stood around us seemed to grope around, like evil spirits searching for souls.’
      • ‘The malevolent exercise of supposed supernatural powers, especially by women, attributed to a connection with the devil or evil spirits.’
      • ‘He therefore becomes demonised, an evil spirit or Devil.’
      • ‘Also bonfires were lit to driveaway evil forces.’
      • ‘Had we stuck with the supernatural explanation, we would never have advanced beyond blood letting or exorcisms to get the evil spirits out.’
      • ‘It is here that beef eating begins to become associated with pollution and evil spirits.’
      • ‘It is very different from the image of a binding and restraining of evil forces, although later traditions imply that this was the work of Day One, and so part of the forbidden mystery.’
      • ‘The devils and evil spirits of the next day were perhaps more psychosomatic and drawn from the excesses of the night before than derived from a Celtic past.’
      • ‘This tale goes back hundreds of years to a time when cats were associated with witchcraft and evil spirits.’
      • ‘It also says that a warlock so powerful will be born and he alone can stop this evil force from walking the Earth.’
      • ‘Exhausted from the heat, the great serpent and all the evil spirits and little serpents fell asleep.’
      • ‘The Devil's Stone, it read, contained the many evil spirits and souls of the past.’
      • ‘They used powerful spells on the relic, that would prove to be most potent and would repel evil forces from using it.’
      • ‘It includes dances representing good and evil forces in the form of maidens and devils.’
      • ‘When I think of the devil, I don't picture an evil force out to destroy us all by any means necessary.’
    2. 1.2 Harmful or tending to harm.
      ‘the evil effects of high taxes’
      • ‘Many of the participants painted wine glass in flames and a serpent coming out of a liquor bottle, throwing light on the evil effects of drinking.’
      • ‘I see arising a great movement among women to safeguard themselves and their children from the evil effects of too liberal a capitalism.’
      • ‘Taxes with or without representation are evil, ever fostering harm and destruction.’
      • ‘Protecting civilians from the evil effects of battle has long been a fundamental goal of the law of armed conflict.’
      • ‘Having good intentions, not harming others, avoiding evil actions and making the heart and mind pure in thought were among the truths spoken by the Buddha.’
      • ‘The ceremony was prompted by an astrologer who told the girl's father that the union would transfer the evil effects of the planet Saturn from the girl to the dog.’
      • ‘It is a lesson which some of our less enlightened citizens would do well to learn before they put pen to paper decrying the wholesale evil effects of immigration.’
      • ‘In his homily he urged the young people to remain loyal to the pledge to abstain from alcohol which they were taking, and warned them of the evil effect on society from the use of drugs.’
      • ‘One little girl reminded me that the guitar, too, is hard to use to really evil effect if it is at least in tune.’
      • ‘Logically, if one follows the common mores of the west, the intent to ‘do harm’ would be evil.’
      • ‘People throng it to ward off the evil effects of this planet.’
      • ‘An evil act, a destructive act, is a choice made by a human being.’
      • ‘Britain's colonial policy, which resulted in the annexation of NZ in 1840, was also shaped by a desire to limit the evil effects of the felonry on Maori.’
      • ‘He was so certain as to the evil effects that he might not go out, fearing some street accident.’
      • ‘If you are not prepared to consider the evil effects of the war alongside the putative advantages, then you will be unlikely to reach a reliable evaluation of the evidence.’
      • ‘That's what good laws do, father: restrain the evil effects of misuse of free will.’
      unlucky, unfortunate, unfavourable, adverse, unhappy, disastrous, catastrophic, ruinous, calamitous, unpropitious, inauspicious, dire, woeful
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    3. 1.3 (of something seen or smelled) extremely unpleasant.
      ‘a bathroom with an evil smell’
      • ‘Borne along by the flow of traffic, she passed through the forum arch into a stew of noises, colors, and evil smells.’
      • ‘Speight's putsch has the evil smell of a South Pacific Kristallnacht.’
      • ‘It also seemed to have been taken for granted that it was the source of the evil smell that lingered in the room.’
      • ‘One of these, when I knew it many years ago, was black, splattered with pigeon droppings, subjected to dense fogs, evil smells, filth everywhere.’
      • ‘The whole place had a damp and evil smell, and as I moved my torch a rat scuttled across the floor.’
      unpleasant, disagreeable, nasty, horrible, foul, filthy, vile
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noun

  • 1Profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force.

    ‘the world is stalked by relentless evil’
    ‘good and evil in eternal opposition’
    • ‘What forces of evil could so cloud the minds of the designers that they would put the volume controls down a level from the main menu?’
    • ‘But a culture that is consciously bent on rejecting moral norms is on a collision course with profound evil.’
    • ‘The war that waged between the forces of good and evil would be filled with bloody battles and in accordance to the winner, the balance would shift.’
    • ‘And then, just when victory would be at its closest, the forces of evil would surround him.’
    • ‘And we hold you up in pride as our symbol in the fight of Good against the forces of darkness and evil.’
    • ‘I believe that my dharma is to prove that the Force for Good takes precedence over the force for evil in mankind.’
    • ‘Military force defeats evil in comic books and at the movies.’
    • ‘It is time for goodness and Godliness to triumph once more over wickedness and evil.’
    • ‘Righting wrongs and fighting evil, corruption, wickedness and stupidity is just part time work.’
    • ‘You follow the trail all the way back to, yep, supernatural evil, a hidden dark lord, whatever.’
    • ‘Watch them battle the forces of evil in the guise of a smiling clown.’
    • ‘All of which would suggest that a film which casts spiders as the malevolent force of evil would be a natural fit for a when nature attacks horror movie.’
    • ‘They are still recovering from their battle with the forces of evil who sought to destroy all who live in the great house.’
    • ‘In short, I tend to think the modern empire is fueled by greed and power and fear and other vestigial ape-politics, rather than some dark forces of ritualistic evil.’
    • ‘The forces of good and evil in the world have strengths and weaknesses such that neither side can vanquish the other.’
    • ‘You have won a place in this world, but remember, the last to hold it was filled with wickedness and evil.’
    • ‘These characters may be incarnates of some supernatural evil, but it's not likely.’
    • ‘Heroic deeds reinforce the bonds of the human condition in ways that resist the forces of terror and evil.’
    • ‘He then murders his girlfriend and chops off a certain body part of his own, all while imagining the cause of this to some sort of supernatural evil.’
    • ‘Too bad the actor does not believe in liberating people from the forces of evil in the real world.’
    wickedness, bad, badness, wrong, wrongdoing, sin, sinfulness, ungodliness, immorality, vice, iniquity, turpitude, degeneracy, vileness, baseness, perversion, corruption, depravity, villainy, nefariousness, atrocity, malevolence, devilishness
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    1. 1.1 A manifestation of this, especially in people's actions.
      ‘the evil that took place last Thursday’
      • ‘Many people have made the point that the Holocaust is not simply a terrible historical event, but a reminder for everyone of the evil of which humans are capable.’
      • ‘But the whole business of slavery is an evil of the first magnitude, and a most horrible iniquity to traffic with slaves and souls of men; and an evil.’
      • ‘I implore the May Day protesters to worry about real problems, rather than just labelling everything as an evil of capitalism.’
      • ‘This resulted in the evil of the conquest of Eastern Europe by Red fascism, replacing Black fascism, whilst freeing Western Europe from the Black fascists.’
      • ‘And he spoke candidly of the whole Catholic Church in this country being ‘tainted with the evil of child abuse’.’
      • ‘All of the priests I interviewed saw witchcraft as an intrinsic evil of the post-colonial economy.’
      • ‘It protects me from the evil of surveillance - by officials, by the unwanted gaze of strangers, by anyone I chose to remain anonymous from.’
      • ‘So for days I ate turkey, feebly rationalizing that I wouldn't add the evil of waste to the evil of the murder of the poor birds, who by then were beyond pain.’
      • ‘He regarded vampirism as a curse, and the ultimate evil was to force it on someone unwilling.’
      • ‘An evil of unimaginable proportions has been unleashed.’
      • ‘The evil of entrusting our liberty to politicians is compounded by a lack of independent safeguards or transparency.’
      • ‘The evil of these acts is almost too much to comprehend.’
      • ‘There are indications that romantic aberrations are becoming more and more an evil of underprivileged people.’
      • ‘The Alliance will continue to use our powers for the good of promoting these two, rather than for the evil of working against those we don't want to win.’
      • ‘Next will be that perennial complaint by predictable hand wringers that children's toy advertising is a modern evil of biblical proportions.’
      abomination, atrocity, obscenity, outrage, enormity, crime, monstrosity, barbarity, barbarism
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    2. 1.2 Something which is harmful or undesirable.
      ‘the various social evils of our modern world’
      • ‘Alms-giving should be eradicated as a social evil like untouchability.’
      • ‘We are responsible to God if by our carelessness or neglect we lead our children into a life or crime or other social evils.’
      • ‘In a bold but lucid way he lays bare the social evils and rampant corruption in those times.’
      • ‘Issues such as suicides of farmers, pollution and social evils are often the subjects.’
      • ‘The protection of young people from smoking and other social evils are our responsibility.’
      • ‘To cope with such social evils, people spend money on more expensive products.’
      • ‘It was for the political reason that Nazism had ceased to be a social evil, especially when viewed alongside the new menace of communism.’
      • ‘It was a forced response, albeit a generous one, to the social evils that the hurricane had exposed.’
      • ‘Hopefully the Biblical passage above will serve to act as a timely reminder of the evils and perils of dancing.’
      • ‘The blow by blow attack on social evils was delineated through other forms of folk art too.’
      • ‘I owe the media thanks for acting like a mirror in exposing those social evils such as corruption.’
      • ‘She just doesn't get it - the depiction of family dysfunction is not a social evil.’
      • ‘It is a minor skin problem yet it is considered a social evil.’
      • ‘Where in the world has the African culture regarded the practice of homosexuality as a social evil?’
      • ‘He urged the people to cooperate the district administration in its fight against social evils.’
      • ‘Professionals who excel in their field but become edentulous when they come up against a social evil.’
      • ‘This is the latest episode in the vilification of videogames, which overnight has become a social evil up there with guns, pornography, and smoking.’
      • ‘He had rendered an unrelenting battle against the social evils which was taken up by his disciples later.’
      • ‘These evils are extraordinarily difficult to prove in particular cases.’
      • ‘The course focuses on systemic evils and the social contexts that produce them.’
      harm, pain, hurt, misery, sorrow, suffering, trauma, trouble, disaster, detriment, destruction, loss, misfortune, catastrophe, calamity, affliction, woe, ruin, hardship
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Phrases

  • the evil eye

    • A gaze or stare superstitiously believed to cause material harm.

      ‘he gave me the evil eye as I walked down the corridor’
      • ‘The superstitious belief in the evil eye is ancient and widespread, though certainly not universal.’
      • ‘Many Tamils also worship village deities, and believe in such popular superstitions as spirits and the evil eye.’
      • ‘Before then, it might have been witchcraft or the evil eye.’
      • ‘Nor does he believe in the evil eye, bad omen, and that kind of stuff.’
      • ‘It is believed that the evil eye can be counteracted by many different protective and curative measures.’
      • ‘About half of Bulgarians believe in telepathy, the evil eye and black magic, and that dreams can be prophetic.’
      • ‘Male children are believed to be particularly vulnerable to the evil eye.’
      • ‘The misconceptions include black magic, witchcraft, evil eye and being possessed by a spirit.’
      • ‘He could tell she didn't believe him, and began to give him the evil eye.’
      • ‘I met one who said he was a white magic man, that he undid the evil eye and black magic spells, got rid of mischief from co-wives and restored potency to men.’
  • the Evil One

    • archaic The Devil.

      • ‘Remember that the Evil One is ruling over a community of noble savages, peace-loving people whose only problem is that they are oppressed by the Evil One.’
      • ‘Each of my paintings is like a book, exposing the tricks of the Evil One, revealing hidden truths through metaphoric symbols, hidden passages and written text.’
      • ‘Or if you fall for the siren song of the Evil One, you're going to be drained dry and cast into the pit of flames in due course.’
      • ‘But he puts it from him as a temptation of the Evil One, makes public confession on the pillory which had been the scene of Hester's shame, and dies in her arms.’
  • give someone (the) evils

    • informal Glare at someone.

      ‘a bus driver gave me evils when I paid with a note’
      • ‘I had my little sister Marianne in the car with me, so I said, "Stare at him as we drive past; give him the evils!"’
      • ‘His mum gave me the evils from her bedroom window.’
      • ‘Her little sister (adorable little six year old who keeps falling over and making me laugh) gave me the evils because I was taking her big sis away for the evening.’
      • ‘I gave them the evils until they got the message.’
      • ‘I sat there and gave her the evils for a few minutes but she never looked up.’
      • ‘I still gave her the evils though, even when she boarded the train before ours.’
      • ‘She gave me the evils when I looked at her!’
      • ‘I gave them the evils so they knew I was angry.’
      • ‘And my cat is giving me the evils …’
      • ‘Great pics too although they are definitely giving you the evils in that first one.’
  • put off the evil day (or hour)

    • Postpone something unpleasant for as long as possible.

      • ‘Your Honour, in relation to the consequences, can I just say that if the case had any strength, the application would not be opposed but it does have a look of putting off the evil day.’
      • ‘This is one of the earlier outdoor festivals on the calendar and, unfortunately, the dedicated committee, who have organised six highly successful Féiles so far, did not have the luxury of putting off the evil day.’
      • ‘The only thing managers can do is to try to put off the evil day by hook or crook.’
      • ‘Experience in other jurisdictions shows that those on trial are only too willing to put off the evil day by taking ‘interlocutory’ points to appeal.’
      • ‘The easiest route for some seems to be to plan well ahead for another career, in other words, not to face the blank appointments diary at all but put off the evil day for some more years.’
      • ‘The government is putting off the evil day of spending money at direct cost to the individuals who live along the coast.’
      • ‘Even taking this line may only put off the evil day.’
      • ‘The motive for trying to prolong a detailed assessment, namely putting off the evil day when payment has to be made, will be considerably reduced when he who has to pay can only put off the evil day in respect of a considerably reduced sum.’
      • ‘In practice, greater accuracy can only put off the evil day by an insignificant amount.’
      • ‘But I am convinced that the right course adjustment now is better than dithering or putting off the evil day: sooner or later, even greater disruption, and perhaps worse, would follow.’
      put to one side, lay aside, pigeonhole, stay, stand over, keep in abeyance, suspend, mothball
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  • speak evil of

    • Slander.

      ‘it is a sin to speak evil of the king’
      • ‘But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My Name, that can lightly speak evil of Me.’
      • ‘Those who have the least will have the best chance to flourish in an environment free from daily assault by employers and occupying forces, neighbors and those who speak evil of them.’
      • ‘This last example was a particularly sensitive one for Luther, who took the time to explain to his congregation why he could speak evil of the pope and not break this commandment - he did it by virtue of his office as teacher of the church!’
      • ‘They never spoke evil of each other, and acted civil towards one another, which was an advantage for everyone.’
      • ‘Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.’
      • ‘Second, Paul suggests that believers in this revitalization movement should act toward others with courtesy, concern, and kindness to avoid quarreling and speaking evil of them.’
      • ‘The world could speak evil of Him and it would not shake your confidence in Him, in the least!’
      • ‘Everyone was in the lounge, still speaking evil of the mysterious guest.’
      • ‘And no one who does anything good, anything wondrous, or a deed of power will be able to soon afterward to speak evil of me.’
      • ‘I, too, shamelessly spoke evil of people behind their backs.’
      disparage, denigrate, defame, run down, revile, berate, belittle, abuse, insult, slight, attack, speak ill of, speak evil of, pour scorn on, cast aspersions on, criticize, censure, condemn, decry, denounce, pillory, lambaste
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Origin

Old English yfel, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch euvel and German Übel.

Pronunciation

evil

/ˈēvəl//ˈivəl/