[ vil-uh-nahyz ]
/ ˈvɪl əˌnaɪz /
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verb (used with object) vil·lain·ized, vil·lain·iz·ing.
to speak ill of; disparage; vilify: to villainize the wealthy.
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Origin of villainize

First recorded in 1620–30; villain + -ize


villainize , vilify
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does 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 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 villānus, meaning “a farm servant.” Originally, villain referred to a man whose social status was well below the nobility (such as farm worker). Eventually, it became associated with “the bad guy”—a scoundrel or a person devoted to evil. The suffix -ize here means “to make or convert into” (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’t necessarily as bad as they’re being described. So, when someone says that a certain person is being villainized, they usually mean that that person’s 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’s 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.

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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


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


How is villainize used in real life?

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



Try using 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