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  1. addicted to or characterized by vice; grossly immoral; depraved; profligate: a vicious life.
  2. given or readily disposed to evil: a vicious criminal.
  3. reprehensible; blameworthy; wrong: a vicious deception.
  4. spiteful; malicious: vicious gossip; a vicious attack.
  5. unpleasantly severe: a vicious headache.
  6. characterized or marred by faults or defects; faulty; unsound: vicious reasoning.
  7. savage; ferocious: They all feared his vicious temper.
  8. (of an animal) having bad habits or a cruel or fierce disposition: a vicious bull.
  9. Archaic. morbid, foul, or noxious.

Origin of vicious

1300–50; Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Latin vitiōsus, equivalent to viti(um) fault, vice1 + -ōsus -ous
Related formsvi·cious·ly, adverbvi·cious·ness, nounun·vi·cious, adjectiveun·vi·cious·ly, adverbun·vi·cious·ness, noun
Can be confusedvicious viscose viscous

Synonyms for vicious

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Antonyms for vicious

1. moral. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for vicious

Contemporary Examples of vicious

Historical Examples of vicious

  • But can the safety of the state be secured by merely excluding the vicious poor?


    Lydia Maria Child

  • The fatuity of vicious and coroneted youth outstripped his discretion.


    William J. Locke

  • Our steward was a Portuguese negro, of the most vicious and surly temper.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Of all classes of our population the most vicious is that of the free colored.

  • But Heman had climbed into the pung, and given Old Gameleg a vicious cut.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

British Dictionary definitions for vicious


  1. wicked or cruel; villainousa vicious thug
  2. characterized by violence or ferocitya vicious blow
  3. informal unpleasantly severe; harsha vicious wind
  4. characterized by malicevicious lies
  5. (esp of dogs, horses, etc) ferocious or hostile; dangerous
  6. characterized by or leading to vice
  7. invalidated by defects; unsounda vicious inference
  8. obsolete noxious or morbida vicious exhalation
Derived Formsviciously, adverbviciousness, noun

Word Origin for vicious

C14: from Old French vicieus, from Latin vitiōsus full of faults, from vitium a defect
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 vicious

early 14c. (implied in viciously), "of the nature of vice, wicked," from Anglo-French vicious, Old French vicieus, from Latin vitiosus "faulty, defective, corrupt," from vitium "fault" (see vice (n.1)). Meaning "inclined to be savage or dangerous" is first recorded 1711 (originally of animals, especially horses); that of "full of spite, bitter, severe" is from 1825. In law, "marred by some inherent fault" (late 14c.), hence also this sense in logic (c.1600); cf. vicious circle in reasoning (c.1792, Latin circulus vitiosus), which was given a general sense of "a situation in which action and reaction intensify one another" by 1839.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper