Definition of villain in English:



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

    ‘a pantomime villain’
    ‘I have played more good guys than villains’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This is a line that is greatly overused in action movies where an evil villain has plotted to take over the world… or whatever.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Voldermort is the evil villain in the novel, the murderer of Harry's parents, and the creature who plans to kill Harry.’
    • ‘Of course the evil plot that the villain finally springs in the third act makes no particular sense.’
    • ‘Wevers believes Iago is the most evil of his villains.’
    • ‘John Lawton writes spy novels in which the spies are villains, and there's no doubt about it.’
    • ‘This ancestry may also account for the difficulty of explaining the motives of Shakespeare's villains.’
    • ‘In Orwell's novel 1984, Big Brother is the evil villain.’
    • ‘To intensify the tragedy of King Lear, Shakespeare has not one but two tragic characters and four villains.’
    • ‘There's even a Hollywood feature film in production, featuring Ben Kingsley as evil villain the Hood, and due for release sometime next year.’
    • ‘‘It is a thriller where the main villain is not a person but AIDS itself,’ says Mr. Sarup.’
    • ‘Chaucer was great, the villain was definitely evil, and the jousting/action scenes were very well done.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The plot involves three villains who inveigle a girl into prostitution in order to make ends meet.’
    • ‘For this act he inherited the role of pantomime villain and was booed roundly every time he touched the ball from then on.’
    • ‘Sir Andrew describes the character as ‘one of the best villains in Victorian fiction’.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Are all of Shakespeare's villains ' motives intelligible?’
    • ‘Ripley is the ambiguous, charming villain in Patricia Highsmith's iconic series of novels who has fascinated readers since he first appeared in 1955.’
    • ‘They have characters and plots, heroes and villains.’
    criminal, lawbreaker, outlaw, offender, felon, convict, jailbird, malefactor, wrongdoer, black hat, supervillain
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    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.’
      • ‘The Chinese government's reaction - every so often - is to behead a bunch of obvious and odious villains.’
      • ‘Sadly, the young villains cycled off.’
      • ‘As has been pointed out previously on spiked, the status of victim and villain are often interchangeable.’
      • ‘Ripley is the ambiguous, charming villain in Patricia Highsmith's iconic series of novels who has fascinated readers since he first appeared in 1955.’
      • ‘In the Sierra Nevada's Owens Valley, though, he is bitterly regarded as the villain who stole farmers' water and drove them to ruin.’
      • ‘Although some villains were rejected, the M.E.N. probe found many were given the go-ahead despite divulging a string of convictions.’
      • ‘They will target villains living off their proceeds of crime and take them to court to strip them of their homes, cars and cash.’
      • ‘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.’
      criminal, lawbreaker, outlaw, offender, felon, convict, jailbird, malefactor, wrongdoer, black hat, supervillain
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 The person or thing responsible for specified problems, harm, or damage.
      ‘the industrialized nations are the real environmental villains’
      • ‘Trichinosis, a parasite found in pork, is the villain responsible for this accepted practice of burning of our precious pork chops.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Is the English ivy covering the unattractive fence in my backyard really an environmental villain?’
      • ‘But the real villains in the story are Green and Allen.’
      • ‘But in Furst's writing it's not always entirely clear who the real villains are.’
      • ‘Ayurveds also agree that the real villains behind hypertension are smoking, alcohol consumption and high salt intake.’
      • ‘He and his pals have to find the real villain to clear Harry and stop the carnage.’
      • ‘The main villains of the piece actually are two white middle-class lawyers and policemen.’
      • ‘But neither Lecter, nor the terrible Mason, are the real villains of ‘Hannibal’.’
      • ‘Why is it taking more than three months to investigate the real villain?’
      • ‘The most egregious environmental villains in the tableware industry are probably plastic disposables.’
      • ‘The real villains of this piece are the weekend cottagers, who bring little to our Dales communities except inflated house prices.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To me, he is a great villain, responsible for millions of deaths and for keeping the country in poverty.’
      • ‘BBC One is attempting to locate and vanquish the villain responsible.’
      • ‘The real villain in this depiction is the devil.’
      • ‘They even try to hold the country's governing council responsible for the villain's actions and demand immediate attacks.’
      • ‘Ever since I learnt about cities and transport planning, I realised that the real villains in urban chaos are personal vehicles.’
      • ‘The real villains he fingers as the Newfoundlanders, who waded into the auks' domains and ravaged them without mercy.’
      • ‘As for Australian ports' image of being environmental villains, Hirst says the tag is undeserved for the most part.’
  • 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 villain of the piece here is the new breed of cricket fan.’
      • ‘The locked-up wife is transformed into the villain of the piece.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece had filled in a few blanks.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece is generally acknowledged to be regionalism.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece was an English cameraman, who forgot to press his safety switch.’
      • ‘The villain of the piece is their predatory little-league baseball coach.’
      • ‘All the villains of the piece are suitably cast down.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Once, I would have argued that the bosses are the villains of the piece.’


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