Definition of villain in English:



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

    [as modifier] ‘a pantomime villain’
    ‘I have played more good guys than villains’
    • ‘This is a line that is greatly overused in action movies where an evil villain has plotted to take over the world… or whatever.’
    • ‘Wevers believes Iago is the most evil of his villains.’
    • ‘Are all of Shakespeare's villains ' motives intelligible?’
    • ‘Sir Andrew describes the character as ‘one of the best villains in Victorian fiction’.’
    • ‘To intensify the tragedy of King Lear, Shakespeare has not one but two tragic characters and four villains.’
    • ‘Ripley is the ambiguous, charming villain in Patricia Highsmith's iconic series of novels who has fascinated readers since he first appeared in 1955.’
    • ‘Chaucer was great, the villain was definitely evil, and the jousting/action scenes were very well done.’
    • ‘This ancestry may also account for the difficulty of explaining the motives of Shakespeare's villains.’
    • ‘‘It is a thriller where the main villain is not a person but AIDS itself,’ says Mr. Sarup.’
    • ‘The plot involves three villains who inveigle a girl into prostitution in order to make ends meet.’
    • ‘They have characters and plots, heroes and villains.’
    • ‘Voldermort is the evil villain in the novel, the murderer of Harry's parents, and the creature who plans to kill Harry.’
    • ‘John Lawton writes spy novels in which the spies are villains, and there's no doubt about it.’
    • ‘A normal thriller would have a villain, ready to strike at any moment and a hero in hot pursuit of the truth that will set him or her free.’
    • ‘In the James Bond thriller On Her Majesty's Secret Service a villain dies horribly when he pitches on to a toboggan run and slides to the bottom - by which time he is hamburger.’
    • ‘Of course the evil plot that the villain finally springs in the third act makes no particular sense.’
    • ‘For this act he inherited the role of pantomime villain and was booed roundly every time he touched the ball from then on.’
    • ‘In Orwell's novel 1984, Big Brother is the evil villain.’
    • ‘While Woodward would gladly play the role of pantomime villain this summer when he takes his Lions to New Zealand, he is not so keen to have the boos and hisses directed at his players.’
    • ‘There's even a Hollywood feature film in production, featuring Ben Kingsley as evil villain the Hood, and due for release sometime next year.’
    • ‘In the tradition of really silly cod spy thrillers, the villains are out to set the world aflame and xXx will have to use all of his powers and lots of high tech stuff to save us all.’
    criminal, lawbreaker, outlaw, offender, felon, convict, jailbird, malefactor, wrongdoer, black hat, supervillain
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1British informal A criminal.
      ‘some people have been tricked by villains with false identity cards’
      ‘the armed villains run off into the night’
      • ‘But in our post modern age they are charged with the amorphous task of policing the fear of crime ' as well as chasing actual villains.’
      • ‘See how they posed and strutted among the terrified hostages, playing the part of big, scary villains.’
      • ‘One villains' network put up for sale a database containing credit card details of 7,000 Britons.’
      • ‘They will target villains living off their proceeds of crime and take them to court to strip them of their homes, cars and cash.’
      • ‘Although some villains were rejected, the M.E.N. probe found many were given the go-ahead despite divulging a string of convictions.’
      • ‘As has been pointed out previously on spiked, the status of victim and villain are often interchangeable.’
      • ‘The Chinese government's reaction - every so often - is to behead a bunch of obvious and odious villains.’
      • ‘Sadly, the young villains cycled off.’
      • ‘In the Sierra Nevada's Owens Valley, though, he is bitterly regarded as the villain who stole farmers' water and drove them to ruin.’
      • ‘Ripley is the ambiguous, charming villain in Patricia Highsmith's iconic series of novels who has fascinated readers since he first appeared in 1955.’
      criminal, lawbreaker, outlaw, offender, felon, convict, jailbird, malefactor, wrongdoer, black hat, supervillain
      transgressor, sinner
      gangster, gunman, bandit, brigand, desperado, thief, robber, mugger, swindler, fraudster, racketeer, terrorist, pirate
      rogue, scoundrel, wretch, heel, reprobate, charlatan, evil-doer, ruffian, hoodlum, hooligan, thug, delinquent, ne'er-do-well, good-for-nothing
      crook, con, crim, baddy, shark, rat, snake, snake in the grass, dog, hound, louse, swine, scumbag, wrong 'un
      rotter, bounder, bad egg, stinker
      malfeasant, misfeasor, infractor
      cad, knave, rake
      miscreant, blackguard
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2The person or thing responsible for specified problems, harm, or damage.
      ‘the industrialized nations are the real environmental villains’
      • ‘The most egregious environmental villains in the tableware industry are probably plastic disposables.’
      • ‘Ever since I learnt about cities and transport planning, I realised that the real villains in urban chaos are personal vehicles.’
      • ‘But in Furst's writing it's not always entirely clear who the real villains are.’
      • ‘But the real villains in the story are Green and Allen.’
      • ‘To me, he is a great villain, responsible for millions of deaths and for keeping the country in poverty.’
      • ‘Is the English ivy covering the unattractive fence in my backyard really an environmental villain?’
      • ‘But neither Lecter, nor the terrible Mason, are the real villains of ‘Hannibal’.’
      • ‘The real villains he fingers as the Newfoundlanders, who waded into the auks' domains and ravaged them without mercy.’
      • ‘Why is it taking more than three months to investigate the real villain?’
      • ‘He and his pals have to find the real villain to clear Harry and stop the carnage.’
      • ‘They even try to hold the country's governing council responsible for the villain's actions and demand immediate attacks.’
      • ‘BBC One is attempting to locate and vanquish the villain responsible.’
      • ‘The real villain in this depiction is the devil.’
      • ‘Ayurveds also agree that the real villains behind hypertension are smoking, alcohol consumption and high salt intake.’
      • ‘Trichinosis, a parasite found in pork, is the villain responsible for this accepted practice of burning of our precious pork chops.’
      • ‘An obscene moral inversion has taken place in mainstream thinking, in which those who commit mass murder are viewed with sympathy while their victims are presented as the real villains.’
      • ‘The main villains of the piece actually are two white middle-class lawyers and policemen.’
      • ‘The real villains of this piece are the weekend cottagers, who bring little to our Dales communities except inflated house prices.’
      • ‘As for Australian ports' image of being environmental villains, Hirst says the tag is undeserved for the most part.’
      • ‘But it is the Scottish banks which are the real villains of the piece, all huddled together in an abysmal performance right at the bottom of the league table.’
  • 2archaic

    variant spelling of villein


  • the villain of the piece

    • The person or thing responsible for all of the trouble or harm in a particular situation.

      ‘TV tends to be cast as the villain of the piece’
      ‘Holdsworth was the villain of the piece when he missed an open goal’
      • ‘The locked-up wife is transformed into the villain of the piece.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece had filled in a few blanks.’
      • ‘Once, I would have argued that the bosses are the villains of the piece.’
      • ‘He thinks she's trying to make him out to be the villain of the piece.’
      • ‘Jones, the villain of the piece to Americans, was an Australian.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece here is the new breed of cricket fan.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece is generally acknowledged to be regionalism.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece is their predatory little-league baseball coach.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece was an English cameraman, who forgot to press his safety switch.’
      • ‘All the villains of the piece are suitably cast down.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘a rustic, boor’): from Old French vilein, based on Latin villa (see villa).