View synonyms for devil


[ dev-uhl ]


  1. Theology.
    1. (sometimes initial capital letter) the supreme spirit of evil; Satan.
    2. a subordinate evil spirit at enmity with God, and having power to afflict humans both with bodily disease and with spiritual corruption.
  2. an atrociously wicked, cruel, or ill-tempered person.
  3. a person who is very clever, energetic, reckless, or mischievous.
  4. a person, usually one in unfortunate or pitiable circumstances:

    The poor devil kept losing jobs through no fault of his own.

  5. Also called printer's devil. Printing. a young worker below the level of apprentice in a printing office.
  6. any of various mechanical devices, as a machine for tearing rags, a machine for manufacturing wooden screws, etc.
  7. Nautical. (in deck or hull planking) any of various seams difficult to caulk because of form or position.
  8. any of various portable furnaces or braziers used in construction and foundry work.
  9. the devil, (used as an emphatic expletive or mild oath to express disgust, anger, astonishment, negation, etc.):

    What the devil do you mean by that?

verb (used with object)

, dev·iled, dev·il·ing or (especially British) dev·illed, dev·il·ling.
  1. to annoy; harass; pester:

    to devil Mom and Dad for a new car.

  2. to tear (rags, cloth, etc.) with a devil.
  3. Cooking. to prepare (food, usually minced) with hot or savory seasoning:

    to devil eggs.


/ ˈdɛvəl /


  1. theol often capital the chief spirit of evil and enemy of God, often represented as the ruler of hell and often depicted as a human figure with horns, cloven hoofs, and tail
  2. theol one of the subordinate evil spirits of traditional Jewish and Christian belief
  3. a person or animal regarded as cruel, wicked, or ill-natured
  4. a person or animal regarded as unfortunate or wretched

    that poor devil was ill for months

  5. a person or animal regarded as clever, daring, mischievous, or energetic
  6. informal.
    something difficult or annoying
  7. Christian Science the opposite of truth; an error, lie, or false belief in sin, sickness, and death
  8. (in Malaysia) a ghost
  9. a portable furnace or brazier, esp one used in road-making or one used by plumbers Compare salamander
  10. any of various mechanical devices, usually with teeth, such as a machine for making wooden screws or a rag-tearing machine
  11. law (in England) a junior barrister who does work for another in order to gain experience, usually for a half fee
  12. meteorol a small whirlwind in arid areas that raises dust or sand in a column
  13. between the devil and the deep blue sea
    between equally undesirable alternatives
  14. devil of informal.

    a devil of a fine horse

  15. give the devil his due
    to acknowledge the talent or the success of an opponent or unpleasant person
  16. go to the devil
    1. to fail or become dissipated
    2. interjection used to express annoyance with the person causing it
  17. like the devil
    with great speed, determination, etc
  18. play the devil with informal.
    to make much worse; upset considerably

    the damp plays the devil with my rheumatism

  19. raise the devil
    1. to cause a commotion
    2. to make a great protest
  20. talk of the devil! or speak of the devil!
    interjection used when an absent person who has been the subject of conversation appears
  21. the devil!
    1. used in such phrases as what the devil, where the devil, etc
    2. an exclamation of anger, surprise, disgust, etc
  22. the devil's own
    a very difficult or problematic (thing)
  23. the devil take the hindmost or let the devil take the hindmost
    look after oneself and leave others to their fate
  24. the devil to pay
    problems or trouble to be faced as a consequence of an action
  25. the very devil
    something very difficult or awkward


  1. tr to prepare (esp meat, poultry, or fish) by coating with a highly flavoured spiced paste or mixture of condiments before cooking
  2. tr to tear (rags) with a devil
  3. intr to serve as a printer's devil
  4. intr to do hackwork, esp for a lawyer or author; perform arduous tasks, often without pay or recognition of one's services
  5. informal.
    tr to harass, vex, torment, etc


  1. A bad or fallen angel . ( See Satan .)

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Other Words From

  • outdevil verb (used with object) outdeviled outdeviling or (especially British) outdevilled outdevilling
  • sub·devil noun
  • under·devil noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of devil1

before 900; Middle English devel, Old English dēofol < Late Latin diabolus < Greek diábolos Satan (Septuagint, NT), literally, slanderer (noun), slanderous (adj.), verbid of diabállein to assault someone's character, literally, to throw across, equivalent to dia- dia- + bállein to throw

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Word History and Origins

Origin of devil1

Old English dēofol, from Latin diabolus, from Greek diabolos enemy, accuser, slanderer, from diaballein, literally: to throw across, hence, to slander

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. between the devil and the deep (blue) sea, between two undesirable alternatives; in an unpleasant dilemma.
  2. devil of a, extremely difficult or annoying; hellish:

    I had a devil of a time getting home through the snow.

  3. give the devil his due, to give deserved credit even to a person one dislikes:

    To give the devil his due, you must admit that she is an excellent psychologist.

  4. go to the devil,
    1. to fail completely; lose all hope or chance of succeeding.
    2. to become depraved.
    3. (an expletive expressing annoyance, disgust, impatience, etc.)
  5. let the devil take the hindmost, to leave the least able or fortunate persons to suffer adverse consequences; leave behind or to one's fate:

    They ran from the pursuing mob and let the devil take the hindmost.

  6. play the devil with, to ruin completely; spoil:

    The financial crisis played the devil with our investment plans.

  7. raise the devil,
    1. to cause a commotion or disturbance.
    2. to celebrate wildly; revel.
    3. to make an emphatic protest or take drastic measures.
  8. the devil to pay, trouble to be faced; mischief in the offing:

    If conditions don't improve, there will be the devil to pay.

More idioms and phrases containing devil

  • between a rock and a hard place (devil and deep blue sea)
  • full of it (the devil)
  • give someone hell (the devil)
  • give the devil his due
  • go to hell (the devil)
  • luck of the devil
  • play the devil with
  • raise Cain (the devil)
  • speak of the devil

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Example Sentences

Bags as high as half a man, great chunks of the stuff that burn to the devil’s specs, cook an entire nation’s food and consume forests.

From Ozy

As for whether the solution makes sense, well, the devil will be in the detail.

From Fortune

I had no control and I was just spiraling downward and he was just the devil at the bottom waiting for me.

However, when it comes to SEO, the devil isn’t in the details or yet another little known keyword targeting and overall research technique you’ve dugout.

For publishers, the devil is in the shadowy detailsExperts warn that shadier vendors will often tuck unfavorable terms into contracts.

From Digiday

Wiseman as Samuel is alternately Devil-child and a cute young kid.

The West would be wise to think of Putin as the devil it knows.

Can we imagine Stephen Vincent Benet writing The Devil and Barbara Boxer?

For both the possessed and the priest-practitioner, driving out the devil can be dangerous to mind, body and spirit.

He says certain books, and even scary Halloween horror movies, tempt people to the devil.

Thus was the man left entirely to the devil, not even his life being reserved, as in the case of Job.

He desired his secretary to go to the devil, but, thinking better of it, he recalled him as he reached the door.

I cannot believe that a good God would create or tolerate a Devil, nor that he would allow the Devil to tempt man.

As the devil never wanted insinuators, I shall observe, that I learned a way how to make a man dream of what I pleased.

One day she had heard a man say, "If there is a drought we shall have the devil to pay with our stock before winter is over."


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




devicedevil and deep blue sea