be·​nev·​o·​lent | \bə-ˈnev-lənt, -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

But there’s been a tangible shift recently in the witch spirit, from benevolent good vibes distributor to vengeful ass-kicker. Aimee Lutkin, Marie Claire, "Charmed, Sabrina, and the Return of the Dark Witch," 6 Sep. 2018 Some benevolent tech billionaire itching to make up for his or her products hijacking our attention should put together a trust that would financially allow every human being on earth to experience this particular natural oddity on horseback. Candice Rainey, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Colorado Ranch Retreat That Gives You a Real Taste of Cowboy Life," 20 July 2018 Duguay portrays their escape with a prickly undertow of horror, while keeping the focus on the benevolent forces enabling the boys' journey south, from kindly priests to rogueish Resistance guides to the loyal fraternal love between them. Guy Lodge,, "'A Bag of Marbles' review: Children escape Nazis in war-torn France," 19 Apr. 2018 Their presence has stirred passions by turns angry and benevolent, as rage against the policy is matched with outpourings of support for the children. Richard Marosi,, "Hundreds of migrant children have been sent to New York. Here's how they spend their days," 9 July 2018 The men who bought the land at 4125 Chestnut made the purchase as trustees of the African Friends to Harmony, which apparently was a benevolent or mutual-aid association. Stephan Salisbury,, "Oldest African American graveyard in West Philadelphia lies beneath proposed apartments," 25 Jan. 2018 So at best, the study could fail to reveal the full impact of a habit (moderate drinking) many now consider benevolent. Julia Belluz, Vox, "The alcohol industry gave the government money to prove moderate drinking is safe," 15 June 2018 Cape Cod National Seashore — Provincetown/Truro Best for: Campfires, oversand driving, swimming A corridor of hard-packed sand makes off-roading in the dramatic dunes of the Outer Cape a safe and environmentally benevolent adventure., "The 20 best beaches to visit in New England," 2 May 2018 So charming, so benevolent is Fellowes, drinking tea and eating cucumber sandwiches in these magnificent Gothic Revival surroundings, that the good lord begins to merge with Lord Grantham in my mind. Catherine Ostler, Town & Country, "The Creator of Downton Abbey Writes a Show About the Titanic," 1 Apr. 2012

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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Last Updated

21 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for benevolent

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

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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 \

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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