[ dev-uhl ]
See synonyms for: devildevileddevilingdevilled on

  1. Theology.

    • (sometimes initial capital letter) the supreme spirit of evil; Satan.

    • 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.

  1. a person who is very clever, energetic, reckless, or mischievous.

  2. a person, usually one in unfortunate or pitiable circumstances: The poor devil kept losing jobs through no fault of his own.

  3. Also called printer's devil. Printing. a young worker below the level of apprentice in a printing office.

  4. any of various mechanical devices, as a machine for tearing rags, a machine for manufacturing wooden screws, etc.

  5. Nautical. (in deck or hull planking) any of various seams difficult to caulk because of form or position.

  6. any of various portable furnaces or braziers used in construction and foundry work.

  7. 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.

  1. Cooking. to prepare (food, usually minced) with hot or savory seasoning: to devil eggs.

Idioms about devil

  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.

  1. 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.

  2. go to the devil,

    • to fail completely; lose all hope or chance of succeeding.

    • to become depraved.

    • (an expletive expressing annoyance, disgust, impatience, etc.)

  3. 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.

  4. play the devil with, to ruin completely; spoil: The financial crisis played the devil with our investment plans.

  5. raise the devil,

    • to cause a commotion or disturbance.

    • to celebrate wildly; revel.

    • to make an emphatic protest or take drastic measures.

  6. the devil to pay, trouble to be faced; mischief in the offing: If conditions don't improve, there will be the devil to pay.

Origin of devil

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

Other words from devil

  • outdevil, verb (used with object), out·dev·iled, out·dev·il·ing or (especially British) out·dev·illed, out·dev·il·ling.
  • sub·dev·il, noun
  • un·der·dev·il, noun

Words Nearby devil Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use devil in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for devil


/ (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

  1. a person or animal regarded as cruel, wicked, or ill-natured

  2. a person or animal regarded as unfortunate or wretched: that poor devil was ill for months

  3. a person or animal regarded as clever, daring, mischievous, or energetic

  4. informal something difficult or annoying

  5. Christian Science the opposite of truth; an error, lie, or false belief in sin, sickness, and death

  6. (in Malaysia) a ghost

  7. a portable furnace or brazier, esp one used in road-making or one used by plumbers: Compare salamander (def. 7)

  8. any of various mechanical devices, usually with teeth, such as a machine for making wooden screws or a rag-tearing machine

  9. law (in England) a junior barrister who does work for another in order to gain experience, usually for a half fee

  10. meteorol a small whirlwind in arid areas that raises dust or sand in a column

  11. between the devil and the deep blue sea between equally undesirable alternatives

  12. devil of informal (intensifier): a devil of a fine horse

  13. give the devil his due to acknowledge the talent or the success of an opponent or unpleasant person

  14. go to the devil

    • to fail or become dissipated

    • (interjection) used to express annoyance with the person causing it

  15. like the devil with great speed, determination, etc

  16. play the devil with informal to make much worse; upset considerably: the damp plays the devil with my rheumatism

  17. raise the devil

    • to cause a commotion

    • to make a great protest

  18. talk of the devil! or speak of the devil! (interjection) used when an absent person who has been the subject of conversation appears

  19. the devil! (intensifier :)

    • used in such phrases as what the devil, where the devil, etc

    • an exclamation of anger, surprise, disgust, etc

  20. the devil's own a very difficult or problematic (thing)

  21. the devil take the hindmost or let the devil take the hindmost look after oneself and leave others to their fate

  22. the devil to pay problems or trouble to be faced as a consequence of an action

  23. the very devil something very difficult or awkward

verb-ils, -illing or -illed or US -ils, -iling or -iled
  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

  1. (intr) to serve as a printer's devil

  2. (intr) mainly British to do hackwork, esp for a lawyer or author; perform arduous tasks, often without pay or recognition of one's services

  3. (tr) US informal to harass, vex, torment, etc

Origin of devil

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

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

Cultural definitions for devil


A bad or fallen angel. (See Satan.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with devil


In addition to the idioms beginning with devil

  • devil and deep blue sea
  • devil of a
  • devil take the hindmost, the
  • devil to pay, the

also see:

  • 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

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