[ vil-uh-nahyz ]
/ 藞v瑟l 蓹藢na瑟z /
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verb (used with object) vil路lain路ized, vil路lain路iz路ing.
to speak ill of; disparage; vilify: to villainize the wealthy.
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Fill in the blank: I can鈥檛 figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of villainize

First recorded in 1620鈥30; villain + -ize


villainize , vilify
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 漏 Random House, Inc. 2023


What does聽villainize mean?

To villainize someone is to speak about them negatively or portray them in a negative way, especially to influence others to see them as a bad person.

Most often, it is individual people who are villainized, typically by someone who says bad things about them (especially things that are exaggerated). However, groups and other things can also be villainized.

Example: Mary tried to villainize Joe before the student council election by telling everyone that he had been rude to her after the debate.

Where does聽villainize come from?

Villainize was first recorded around the 1620s. Villain is much older (first recorded around the early 1300s) and comes from the Late Latin word vill膩nus, meaning 鈥渁 farm servant.鈥 Originally, villain referred to a man whose social status was well below the nobility (such as farm worker). Eventually, it became associated with 鈥渢he bad guy鈥濃攁 scoundrel or a person devoted to evil. The suffix -ize here means 鈥渢o make or convert into鈥 (as in fossilize and sterilize) and is used to make the noun villain into a verb.

To villainize someone is to make them out to be the bad guy. This implies that they aren鈥檛 necessarily as bad as they鈥檙e being described. So, when someone says that a certain person is being villainized, they usually mean that that person鈥檚 bad qualities have been exaggerated in order to make people dislike them. A defense attorney may suggest that the prosecutor is attempting to villainize the defendant. Or a politician may complain that they have been unfairly villainized by a rival politician鈥檚 smear campaign. The term can also be applied to groups or things, like countries or industries. For example, a documentary might be said to have villainized an industry by emphasizing its unethical practices.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of villainize?

  • villain (noun)
  • villainization (noun)

What are some synonyms for villainize?

What are some words that share a root or word element with villainize?聽


What are some words that often get used in discussing villainize?


How is聽villainize used in real life?

The word villainize is often used to imply that someone is exaggerating a person鈥檚 actions or words to make them appear worse than they are.



Try using聽villianize!

Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite) of villainize?

A. slander
B. disparage
C. praise
D. vilify

How to use villainize in a sentence