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[ee-vuh l] /ˈi vəl/
morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked:
evil deeds; an evil life.
harmful; injurious:
evil laws.
characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous:
to be fallen on evil days.
due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character:
an evil reputation.
marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.:
He is known for his evil disposition.
that which is evil; evil quality, intention, or conduct:
to choose the lesser of two evils.
the force in nature that governs and gives rise to wickedness and sin.
the wicked or immoral part of someone or something:
The evil in his nature has destroyed the good.
harm; mischief; misfortune:
to wish one evil.
anything causing injury or harm:
Tobacco is considered by some to be an evil.
a harmful aspect, effect, or consequence:
the evils of alcohol.
a disease, as king's evil.
in an evil manner; badly; ill:
It went evil with him.
the evil one, the devil; Satan.
Origin of evil
before 900; Middle English evel, evil, Old English yfel; cognate with Gothic ubils, Old High German ubil, German übel, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch evel
Related forms
evilly, adverb
evilness, noun
nonevil, adjective
nonevilly, adverb
nonevilness, noun
quasi-evil, adjective
quasi-evilly, adverb
unevil, adjective
unevilly, adverb
1. sinful, iniquitous, depraved, vicious, corrupt, base, vile, nefarious. See bad1 . 2. pernicious, destructive. 6. wickedness, depravity, iniquity, unrighteousness, corruption, baseness. 9. disaster, calamity, woe, misery, suffering, sorrow.
1. righteous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for evil
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Our schools for Education in evil are numerous, and their teachers are legion.

  • What, it seemed to ask, could all the evil tongues in the world do to poison this joy?

    Deerbrook Harriet Martineau
  • Age had steeped him deep in black wisdom, not weakened his powers of evil.

    A Witch Shall Be Born Robert E. Howard
  • It is more likely to cause other evil measures, in order that it may not die out.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • It is not conversion of evil men that must be aimed at, but their control.

    Criminal Types V. M. Masten
British Dictionary definitions for evil


morally wrong or bad; wicked: an evil ruler
causing harm or injury; harmful: an evil plan
marked or accompanied by misfortune; unlucky: an evil fate
(of temper, disposition, etc) characterized by anger or spite
not in high esteem; infamous: an evil reputation
offensive or unpleasant: an evil smell
(slang) good; excellent
the quality or an instance of being morally wrong; wickedness: the evils of war
(sometimes capital) a force or power that brings about wickedness or harm: evil is strong in the world
(archaic) an illness or disease, esp scrofula (the king's evil)
(now usually in combination) in an evil manner; badly: evil-smelling
Derived Forms
evilly, adverb
evilness, noun
Word Origin
Old English yfel, of Germanic origin; compare Old Frisian evel, Old High German ubil evil, Old Irish adbal excessive
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for evil

Old English yfel (Kentish evel) "bad, vicious, ill, wicked," from Proto-Germanic *ubilaz (cf. Old Saxon ubil, Old Frisian and Middle Dutch evel, Dutch euvel, Old High German ubil, German übel, Gothic ubils), from PIE *upelo-, from root *wap- (cf. Hittite huwapp- "evil").

"In OE., as in all the other early Teut. langs., exc. Scandinavian, this word is the most comprehensive adjectival expression of disapproval, dislike or disparagement" [OED]. Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm, crime, misfortune, disease (n.). The meaning "extreme moral wickedness" was in Old English, but did not become the main sense until 18c. Related: Evilly. Evil eye (Latin oculus malus) was Old English eage yfel. Evilchild is attested as an English surname from 13c.


Old English yfel (see evil (adj.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for evil



  1. Excellent; splendid; mean, wicked: Geoffrey beats an evil set of skins (1950s+)
  2. Biting and sarcastic; catty; bitchy (1970s+ Homosexuals)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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evil in Technology

As used by a hacker, implies that some system, program, person, or institution is sufficiently maldesigned as to be not worth the bother of dealing with. Unlike the adjectives in the cretinous, losing, brain-damaged series, "evil" does not imply incompetence or bad design, but rather a set of goals or design criteria fatally incompatible with the speaker's. This usage is more an aesthetic and engineering judgment than a moral one in the mainstream sense. "We thought about adding a Blue Glue interface but decided it was too evil to deal with." "TECO is neat, but it can be pretty evil if you're prone to typos." Often pronounced with the first syllable lengthened, as /eeee'vil/.
Compare evil and rude.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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