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  1. an immoral or evil habit or practice.
  2. immoral conduct; depraved or degrading behavior: a life of vice.
  3. sexual immorality, especially prostitution.
  4. a particular form of depravity.
  5. a fault, defect, or shortcoming: a minor vice in his literary style.
  6. a bad habit, as in a horse.
  7. (initial capital letter) a character in the English morality plays, a personification of general vice or of a particular vice, serving as the buffoon.
  8. Archaic. a physical defect, flaw, or infirmity: In most cases, attempts to relieve the symptoms will be of little avail without at the same time relieving or removing the constitutional vice which has induced this condition.

Origin of vice1

1250–1300; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin vitium a fault, defect, vice

Synonym study

1. Fault, failing, foible, weakness, vice imply shortcomings or imperfections in a person. Fault is the common word used to refer to any of the average shortcomings of a person; when it is used, condemnation is not necessarily implied: Of his many faults the greatest is vanity. Foible, failing, weakness all tend to excuse the person referred to. Of these foible is the mildest, suggesting a weak point that is slight and often amusing, manifesting itself in eccentricity rather than in wrongdoing: the foibles of artists. Weakness suggests that the person in question is unable to control a particular impulse, and gives way to self-indulgence: a weakness for pretty women. Failing is closely akin to fault, except that it is particularly applied to humanity at large, suggesting common, often venial, shortcomings: Procrastination and making excuses are common failings. Vice (which may also apply to a sin in itself, apart from a person: the vice of gambling ) is the strongest term, and designates a habit that is truly detrimental or evil.


noun, verb (used with object), viced, vic·ing.
  1. vise.


[vahy-see, -suh, vahys]
  1. instead of; in the place of.

Origin of vice3

1760–70; < Latin: instead of, ablative of vicis (genitive; not attested in nominative) interchange, alternation


or vice

  1. any of various devices, usually having two jaws that may be brought together or separated by means of a screw, lever, or the like, used to hold an object firmly while work is being done on it.
verb (used with object), vised, vis·ing.
  1. to hold, press, or squeeze with or as with a vise.

Origin of vise

1300–50; Middle English vis < Old French: screw < Latin vītis vine (whose spiral form gave later sense)
Related formsvise·like, adjective


  1. a combining form meaning “deputy,” used in the formation of compound words, usually titles of officials who serve in the absence of the official denoted by the base word: viceroy; vice-chancellor.

Origin of vice-

Middle EnglishLatin vice vice3
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for vice

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

British Dictionary definitions for vice


  1. an immoral, wicked, or evil habit, action, or trait
  2. habitual or frequent indulgence in pernicious, immoral, or degrading practices
  3. a specific form of pernicious conduct, esp prostitution or sexual perversion
  4. a failing or imperfection in character, conduct, etcsmoking is his only vice
  5. pathol obsolete any physical defect or imperfection
  6. a bad trick or disposition, as of horses, dogs, etc
Derived Formsviceless, adjective

Word Origin

C13: via Old French from Latin vitium a defect


often US vise

  1. an appliance for holding an object while work is done upon it, usually having a pair of jaws
  1. (tr) to grip (something) with or as if with a vice
Derived Formsvicelike or US viselike, adjective

Word Origin

C15: from Old French vis a screw, from Latin vītis vine, plant with spiralling tendrils (hence the later meaning)


    1. (prenominal)serving in the place of or as a deputy for
    2. (in combination)viceroy
  1. informal a person who serves as a deputy to another

Word Origin

C18: from Latin vice, from vicis interchange


  1. instead of; as a substitute for

Word Origin

C16: from Latin, ablative of vicis change


  1. (in English morality plays) a character personifying a particular vice or vice in general


noun, verb
  1. US a variant spelling of vice 2
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

Word Origin and History for vice


"moral fault, wickedness," c.1300, from Old French vice, from Latin vitium "defect, offense, blemish, imperfection," in both physical and moral senses (cf. Italian vezzo "usage, entertainment").

Horace and Aristotle have already spoken to us about the virtues of their forefathers and the vices of their own times, and through the centuries, authors have talked the same way. If all this were true, we would be bears today. [Montesquieu]

Vice squad is attested from 1905. Vice anglais "corporal punishment," literally "the English vice," is attested from 1942, from French.


"tool for holding," see vise.


word-forming element meaning "instead of, in place of," 15c., from Latin vice "in place of," ablative of vicis "change, turn, office" (see vicarious). Sometimes borrowed in Old French form vis-, vi-.



c.1300, "device like a screw or winch for bending a crossbow or catapult," from Old French vis, viz "screw," from Latin vitis "vine, tendril of a vine," literally "that which winds," from root of viere "to bind, twist" (see withy). The meaning "clamping tool with two jaws closed by a screw" is first recorded c.1500.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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