- threatening or portending evil, harm, or trouble; ominous: a sinister remark.
- bad, evil, base, or wicked; fell: his sinister purposes.
- unfortunate; disastrous; unfavorable: a sinister accident.
- of or on the left side; left.
- Heraldry. noting the side of an escutcheon or achievement of arms that is to the left of the bearer (opposed to dexter).
Origin of sinister
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for sinister
Some have innocuous-seeming URLs like cardpool.com or giftcardgranny.com, which cloak the sinister operations.The Insane $11 Billion Scam at Retailers’ Return Desks
December 19, 2014
“i wanted to talk to him about sinister and jobs,” wrote Pascal.Exclusive: Sony Emails Slam Leonardo DiCaprio, Willow and Jaden Smith, Gush Over Ryan Gosling
December 13, 2014
The Kremlin likes to portray these as sinister Western conspiracies.Putin’s Health Care Disaster
November 30, 2014
A raft of thrillers, sci-fi movies, and sinister dramas followed.Can Condon's Freak Show Win Broadway?
November 18, 2014
As sinister and well-resourced as it is, it may be the weakest link in the chain.Egypt’s LGBTs Fight Grindr Crackdown
October 18, 2014
We do it in a sinister sense more often than by way of helpfulness.The Conquest of Fear
The sinister association of ideas made Mary shudder, but she said no more.
The voice of the older man came with a sinister force and saturnine.
Dick, too, winced under the pain of this meeting with his father in a situation so sinister.
There was a sinister thread in that flowing note, and suddenly Dick remembered.The Rock of Chickamauga
Joseph A. Altsheler
- threatening or suggesting evil or harm; ominousa sinister glance
- evil or treacherous, esp in a mysterious way
- (usually postpositive) heraldry of, on, or starting from the left side from the bearer's point of view and therefore on the spectator's right
- archaic located on the left side
- archaic (of signs, omens, etc) unfavourable
Word Origin and History for sinister
early 15c., "prompted by malice or ill-will, intending to mislead," from Old French senestre, sinistre "contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left" (14c.), from Latin sinister "left, on the left side" (opposite of dexter), of uncertain origin. Perhaps meaning properly "the slower or weaker hand" [Tucker], but Klein and Buck suggest it's a euphemism (see left (adj.)) connected with the root of Sanskrit saniyan "more useful, more advantageous." With contrastive or comparative suffix -ter, as in dexter (see dexterity).
The Latin word was used in augury in the sense of "unlucky, unfavorable" (omens, especially bird flights, seen on the left hand were regarded as portending misfortune), and thus sinister acquired a sense of "harmful, unfavorable, adverse." This was from Greek influence, reflecting the early Greek practice of facing north when observing omens. In genuine Roman auspices, the augurs faced south and left was favorable. Thus sinister also retained a secondary sense in Latin of "favorable, auspicious, fortunate, lucky."
Meaning "evil" is from late 15c. Used in heraldry from 1560s to indicate "left, to the left." Bend (not "bar") sinister in heraldry indicates illegitimacy and preserves the literal sense of "on or from the left side" (though in heraldry this is from the view of the bearer of the shield, not the observer of it).
- Presaging trouble; ominous.
- On the left side; left.