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nefarious

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adjective ne·far·i·ous \ni-ˈfer-ē-əs\

Simple Definition of nefarious

  • : evil or immoral

Full Definition of nefarious

  1. :  flagrantly wicked or impious :  evil

ne·far·i·ous·ly adverb

Examples of nefarious

  1. Moreover, those starry-eyed states inclined to perceive international relations in moral terms frequently underestimate the nefarious machinations of their competitors on the world political stage. —Richard Wolin, New Republic, 4 June 2001

  2. … I always give the same response: Just because Frank posed for pictures with every leading capo, underboss and cement contractor of the day doesn't mean that he joined them in their nefarious underworld activities. Oh, occasionally he rode along on a hit or two, but that was just one of those social obligations … —Lewis Grossberger, Time, 21 Dec. 1998

  3. Three-tenths of a mile uphill from our mailbox on the road, that bend is so nefarious that neophytes often skidded into a snowbank or wound up fender-deep in mud there. —Maxine Kumin, In Deep, 1987

  4. a nefarious scheme to cheat people out of their money

  5. <the chaste heroines and nefarious villains of old-time melodramas>



Origin of nefarious

Latin nefarius, from nefas crime, from ne- not + fas right, divine law; perhaps akin to Greek themis law, tithenai to place — more at do


First Known Use: circa 1609

Synonym Discussion of nefarious

vicious, villainous, iniquitous, nefarious, corrupt, degenerate mean highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct. vicious may directly oppose virtuous in implying moral depravity, or may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence <a vicious gangster>. villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic <a villainous assault>. iniquitous implies absence of all signs of justice or fairness <an iniquitous system of taxation>. nefarious suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct <the nefarious rackets of organized crime>. corrupt stresses a loss of moral integrity or probity causing betrayal of principle or sworn obligations <city hall was rife with corrupt politicians>. degenerate suggests having sunk to an especially vicious or enervated condition <a degenerate regime propped up by foreign powers>.


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