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 And billionaires, even benevolent ones, aren’t necessarily any good at running newspapers. Georgia Garvey,, 24 May 2021 Rodrigo has been at the center of that mostly benevolent storm this year. Raisa Bruner, Time, 24 May 2021 Why does there seem to be so many people rooting against Tebow — one of the most caring, compassionate, benevolent, big-hearted, philanthropic, altruistic role models in the history of sports? Mike Bianchi,, 22 May 2021 In this dream, the Railroad — its systems, the people who run it and engage with it — aren’t only presented in a benevolent, positive light. Steffan Triplett, Vulture, 17 May 2021 Others, still, are recognized for their gifts, like Caesar, who reads Homer and Swift and is drafted into a job doing research among the seemingly benevolent overseers of Griffin. John Anderson, WSJ, 13 May 2021 The setting of most courtroom dramas is a merciful, rational place, where lies are exposed and gray areas are illuminated by the impersonal workings of a mostly benevolent system. New York Times, 13 May 2021 Neither Facebook nor Apple should be trusted as a benevolent sovereign to guide the direction of the internet or digital communications. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, 26 Apr. 2021 Apple enters the content business At risk of being sidelined, Apple’s status as podcasting’s benevolent absentee landlord has changed. John Sullivan, The Conversation, 13 May 2021

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

29 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Benevolent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 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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