be·​nev·​o·​lent bə-ˈnev-lənt How to pronounce benevolent (audio)
: marked by or disposed to doing good
a benevolent donor
: organized for the purpose of doing good
a benevolent society
: marked by or suggestive of goodwill
benevolent smiles
benevolently adverb
benevolentness noun

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Benevolent Has a Good History

One who is benevolent genuinely wishes other people well, a meaning reflected clearly in the word's Latin roots: benevolent comes from bene, meaning "good," and velle, meaning "to wish." Other descendants of velle in English include volition, which refers to the power to make one's own choices or decisions, and voluntary, as well as the rare velleity, meaning either "the lowest degree of volition" or "a slight wish or tendency." A more familiar velle descendant stands directly opposed to benevolent: malevolent describes someone or something having or showing a desire to cause harm to another person.

Examples of benevolent in a Sentence

Trees that size are like whales, sort of benevolent in their huge bulk … Sebastian Junger, This Old House, March/April 1998
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 Pinckney, High Cotton, 1992
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
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
a gift from a benevolent donor He belonged to several benevolent societies and charitable organizations. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Davison's Doctor Who was a lot more benevolent and was never scared to offer a helping hand even in life-threatening moments. Stephanie Sengwe, Peoplemag, 25 Nov. 2023 An attempt to present Cuba's economic and political model as a democratic and benevolent alternative devolved into romanticization of a brutal authoritarian regime. Peter Gattuso, National Review, 18 Nov. 2023 Rosas is a special place, ruled by the sorcerer-king Magnifico (Chris Pine), who at first seems to be a benevolent despot. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2023 Can the drone shot be benevolent, or, at the very least, objective? Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker, 12 Oct. 2023 DiPietro said that the play has a blue-chip cast and, like Ashley, Broderick is a benevolent company leader. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Nov. 2023 The Origins of Unicorn Mythology Once again, the medieval interpretation of these benevolent beasts took its inspiration from antiquity. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 30 Oct. 2023 Beyoncé, 42, has figured out how to adjust her voice (her characteristic growl floats in falsetto) and adjust her body language (more benevolent, like a gilded patroness) to abstract the object and subject of the song. Jenna Wortham, New York Times, 27 Sep. 2023 So to graduate to this level — a Black woman judge in the court TV space — is a humble and benevolent privilege. Breanna Bell, Variety, 11 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'benevolent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of benevolent was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near benevolent

Cite this Entry

“Benevolent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


be·​nev·​o·​lent bə-ˈnev(-ə)-lənt How to pronounce benevolent (audio)
: having a desire to do good : kindly, charitable
a benevolent organization
benevolently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on benevolent

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