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 Dean probably would have been better off with a benevolent conservator, but he still would have been robbed of all of his legal rights. Sara Luterman, The New Republic, "The Darker Story Just Outside the Lens of Framing Britney Spears," 12 Feb. 2021 The film tells a true story, down to the fact that Pretty protected Brown’s work at the site, and generally functioned as a benevolent supervisor. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "How The Dig and Ammonite Fetishize British-ness," 27 Jan. 2021 That was Day One in the age of cellular animal agriculture, setting in motion the rarest of new technology — the kind that can be used only to benevolent effect. Matthew Scully, National Review, "Hello Cultured Meat, Goodbye to the Cruelty of Industrial Animal Farming," 17 Jan. 2021 Surely nobody would be breaking the semiformal military rules specified by our benevolent federal overlords. Jeff Winkler, The Atlantic, "The Art of Cooking While Everything Burns," 30 Dec. 2020 But the company’s recent conversations with creative partners about introducing a subscription product to its podcasting business signals that its reign as a benevolent distributor might be coming to an end. Natalie Jarvey, Billboard, "Apple Mulls Podcast Subscription Push Amid Spotify's Land Grab," 18 Jan. 2021 If Iran's intentions are benevolent, agreeing to let Israel and Saudi Arabia participate, even indirectly (as, for example, Israel negotiates with Gaza via Egypt), could be a step toward an eventual diminution of the conflict. Zev Chafets, Star Tribune, "Biden's next crisis: Nuclear weapons in Iran," 14 Jan. 2021 In place of those criticisms, the government cast itself as responsible, benevolent and transparent in dealing with the public health emergency — an image that infuriated Ms. Zhang. Vivian Wang, New York Times, "Chinese Citizen Journalist Sentenced to 4 Years for Covid Reporting," 28 Dec. 2020 One of the few bright spots of the season, though, is the abundance of new Christmastime musical specials, helmed by some of our most beloved and benevolent divas. New York Times, "Mariah! Dolly! Carrie! 2020 Can’t Quarantine This Cheer," 18 Dec. 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

22 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Benevolent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for benevolent



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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