adjective be·nev·o·lent \ bə-ˈnev-lənt , -ˈne-və- \
|Updated on: 4 Jul 2018

Definition of benevolent

1 a : marked by or disposed to doing good
  • a benevolent donor
b : organized for the purpose of doing good
  • a benevolent society
2 : marked by or suggestive of goodwill
  • benevolent smiles





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Examples of benevolent in a Sentence

  1. Trees that size are like whales, sort of benevolent in their huge bulk … —Sebastian JungerThis Old HouseMarch/April 1998
  2. Grandfather sometimes turned on us like a rigged trap, and of course the benevolent gaze of the sage became the glare of the patriarch. —Darryl PinckneyHigh Cotton1992
  3. A Southern writer is allowed his eccentricities. The prevailing attitude is a kind of benevolent neglect. —Walker Percy"Why I Live Where I Live," 1980, in Signposts in a Strange Land1991
  4. They tore out the windows of the club's simple storefront and bricked them over and left two much smaller windows … so that the look of the club changed from that of a benevolent neighborhood organization to that of a paramilitary one. —"The Talk of the Town," New Yorker26 Feb. 1990
  5. a gift from a benevolent donor

  6. He belonged to several benevolent societies and charitable organizations.

Recent Examples of benevolent from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'benevolent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

benevolent Has a Good History

Someone who is "benevolent" genuinely wishes other people well, which is not surprising if you know the word's history. "Benevolent" can be traced back to Latin bene, meaning "good," and velle, meaning "to wish." Other descendants of "velle" in English include "volition" ("the act or power of making one's choices or decisions"), "voluntary," and the rare word velleity (meaning either "the lowest degree of volition" or "a slight wish or tendency"). There is also one more familiar "velle" descendant - "malevolent," the antonym of "benevolent," a word describing one who is disposed to doing ill instead of good.

Origin and Etymology of benevolent

Middle English, from Latin benevolent-, benevolens, from bene + volent-, volens, present participle of velle to wish — more at will

BENEVOLENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of benevolent for English Language Learners

  • : kind and generous

  • : organized to do good things for other people

BENEVOLENT Defined for Kids


adjective be·nev·o·lent \ bə-ˈne-və-lənt \

Definition of benevolent for Students

1 : having a desire to do good : kindly a benevolent organization
2 : marked by or suggestive of a kindly feeling a benevolent face


  • smiled benevolently

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to grant as a privilege or special favor

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