Definition of villainess in US English:



  • (in a film, novel, or play) a female character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.

    ‘she's portrayed as a glowering villainess, accompanied by ominous music as she enters’
    • ‘The once clear demarcation in Dracula between heroine and villainess is made uncomfortably fluid by Stoker's parallel descriptions in these stories.’
    • ‘McIntosh sees parallels with Lady Macbeth, the Shakespearean villainess who famously asked for male characteristics as she plotted murder.’
    • ‘The character of Millie, Eder says, remains a villainess rivaled only by Lady Macbeth in all of English theater and film.’
    • ‘It's a shame the script is more interested in her playing a one-dimensional bitchy villainess instead of a woman who has been faced with a horrible ethical dilemma.’
    • ‘Her depiction of the smothering, conniving and insufferable Ms. Iselin, mother to Raymond, earned the veteran actress the well-deserved distinction as one of the screen's most reviled villainesses.’
    • ‘Her portrait of this scheming villainess comes off as pure Hollywood camp.’
    • ‘In 1977, she turned down the opportunity to play villainess Ursa in Superman: The Movie.’
    • ‘He was struck, not only by her confidence, but by what Vogue magazine called "the kind of looks usually reserved for a James Bond villainess".’
    • ‘For a start, she'd make a great Bond villainess.’
    • ‘I love hissing the villainess as she works her evil wiles and cheering when she gets her eventual comeuppance.’
    • ‘While villainesses appear in Rockford, they were few and far between - more often guilty of a scam than a murder.’
    • ‘The songs seem irrelevant but they justify their existence at the end, when heroine and villainess square off in a moral and physical beauty contest: a play-off that's also a sing-off.’


Late 16th century: from villain + -ess.