Definition of sinister in US English:



  • 1Giving the impression that something harmful or evil is happening or will happen.

    ‘there was something sinister about that murmuring voice’
    • ‘The Church is a dark and sinister place with creepy occult doings going on.’
    • ‘Nobody could say that anything sinister was happening.’
    • ‘Her early work gave way to more chilling visions that echoed fairy tale evils, sinister forests, cunning wolves, and grandmothers ready to eat you.’
    • ‘The high cheek bones are very pronounced, giving the creatures an impression of a continual sinister smile.’
    • ‘Yet there are more sinister happenings afoot, as Count Dracula himself jumps into the mix, searching for a serum to make him invincible.’
    • ‘Only by unmasking a sinister conspiracy can he prove his innocence.’
    • ‘Norrell's love of secrecy and Strange's attraction to the wilder edges of magic invoke dark and sinister happenings.’
    • ‘There is a worrying conviction growing in this community that something sinister is happening in our justice system.’
    • ‘Noah's piece tends to show that neoconservatism is not the sinister conspiracy he thinks it is, not that neoconservatism is cracking up.’
    • ‘Or did something more sinister happen, as Padilla's family and others fear?’
    • ‘The mutter of sinister threats and portents was already to be heard.’
    • ‘Children across Bradford will be enjoying spooky shenanigans for Halloween tonight but police are urging that everyone takes care to make sure nothing more sinister happens.’
    • ‘A quick Google search reveals that several conspiracy web sites allege sinister motivations behind this conference.’
    • ‘Strange and sinister things sometimes happen on the streets of York at the crack of dawn.’
    • ‘Whether in 2005 or 2025, we need a clearer picture of Cameroon, and less of a merely vague, sinister impression.’
    • ‘Bound in the flayed skin of 100 saints and penned with the blood of virgins, this sinister and forbidden occult text is an item of incredible power.’
    • ‘It wasn't - there was no kind of sinister conspiracy at the start.’
    • ‘Not to be overlooked in the controversy were the paranoid prognosticators who saw grand conspiracies and sinister plots everywhere.’
    • ‘Personally, I think it's all a sinister conspiracy by the BBC to overdub Doctor Who with something that has now spoilt it, to make us all buy it when it comes out on DVD.’
    • ‘In a university, something even more sinister happens.’
    menacing, threatening, ominous, forbidding, baleful, frightening, eerie, alarming, disturbing, disquieting, dark, black, suggestive of evil, evil-looking
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    1. 1.1 Evil or criminal.
      ‘there might be a more sinister motive behind the government's actions’
      • ‘Judge Laity in England described the group as ‘corrupt, sinister and dangerous’.’
      • ‘Credit card fraud attracts sinister people who use the money to fund criminal activity such as terrorism.’
      • ‘In many of his books, the heroes are noble trial lawyers while the villains are sinister corporations and the lawyers who agree to defend them.’
      • ‘Instead it's a candid admission he once lived the furtive lifestyle of a sinister international beer villain.’
      • ‘They are put into the custody of Count Olaf, a sinister villain who is plotting to steal their inheritance.’
      evil, wicked, bad, criminal, corrupt, nefarious, villainous, base, vile, malevolent, malicious, malign
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  • 2Heraldry
    archaic attributive Of, on, or toward the left-hand side (in a coat of arms, from the bearer's point of view, i.e., the right as it is depicted).

    The opposite of dexter
    • ‘Each coat of arms has a right and left (i.e. dexter and sinister) heraldic side, as observed by the person carrying the shield.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘malicious, underhand’): from Old French sinistre or Latin sinister ‘left’.