be·​nev·​o·​lent | \ bə-ˈnev-lənt How to pronounce benevolent (audio) , -ˈne-və- \

Definition of benevolent

1a : 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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Other Words from benevolent

benevolently adverb
benevolentness noun

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.

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Logline: In a present day America that finds itself under authoritarian rule, the President’s daughter – raised to believe her father is moral and benevolent – has her worldview rocked on her first day at Georgetown. Lynette Rice,, "TV pilots guide: Every new network show in the works for fall 2020," 1 Feb. 2020 On a recent afternoon, Ms. Ayano showed a group of women who had driven 60 miles from Tosa City how to create an angry or benevolent expression by angling fabric in different directions to make eyebrows. New York Times, "There Are No Children Here. Just Lots of Life-Size Dolls.," 17 Dec. 2019 Your most generous and benevolent urges can find a suitable outlet in your own back yard. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Oct. 21, 2019: Scorpio, be a busy bee; Pisces, let love run its natural course," 21 Oct. 2019 Beetle’s genius owner Guy Matthias originally envisioned creating a benevolent society built upon technological conveniences and artificial intelligence innovations. Don Oldenburg, USA TODAY, "Technology takes over in Joanna Kavenna’s distressingly dystopian, relevant 'Zed'," 14 Jan. 2020 Did the company learn its lesson and become benevolent? Kareem Abdul-jabbar, The Hollywood Reporter, "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 'Just Mercy' and the Difference Between Black and White Legal Dramas," 9 Jan. 2020 All descendants of the fallen greats such as the benevolent Mahabali, the valiant Mahishasura, the ferocious Meghnad, or his father Ravana, perhaps the most powerful of all, are Asuras. Harish Pullanoor, Quartz India, "We, the permanent villains of Indian mythology, must reclaim our fallen icons," 30 Dec. 2019 All this is merely one part of a greater worry that the internet, far from being a benevolent source of useful information, has become a swamp of lies, misdirection and conspiracy theories that is harming politics. The Economist, "Democracy and the internet How to police political advertising," 28 Nov. 2019 Possessed of Greco-Roman good looks and a gregarious, benevolent spirit, Mr. Giorno played an important role early in his life as a muse and lover of other artists, among them Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. Randy Kennedy, New York Times, "John Giorno, Who Moved Poetry Beyond the Printed Page, Dies at 82," 13 Oct. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of benevolent

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

History and Etymology for benevolent

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

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Time Traveler for benevolent

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

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Last Updated

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Benevolent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for benevolent


How to pronounce benevolent (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of benevolent

: kind and generous
: organized to do good things for other people


be·​nev·​o·​lent | \ bə-ˈne-və-lənt How to pronounce benevolent (audio) \

Kids Definition of benevolent

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

Other Words from benevolent

benevolently adverb smiled benevolently

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