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

Steyer’s candidacy and career rest on an argument that the benevolent rich can truly be relied upon as the benefactors of the working class. Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker, "Tom Steyer, the Democrats’ Billionaire for the People?," 14 July 2019 Rondrell McCormick is contemptuously scheming as Orlando’s older brother Oliver and also plays the benevolent shepherd Corin. Sam Hurwitt, The Mercury News, "Review: Charming SF Shakes’ ‘As You Like It’ has a secret musical weapon," 10 July 2019 Katla brings the tensions to a head, while Margit communes on the heath with the benevolent, wordless spirit of her dead mother. Michael Phillips,, "‘The Juniper Tree’ review: When the Brothers Grimm traveled to Iceland, with Bjork," 10 July 2019 Truvillion belongs to San Francisco’s only remaining black chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star — a benevolent organization with ties to the Freemasons. Lee Romney,, "Has Hollywood wised up to San Francisco’s gentrification crisis?," 3 July 2019 Be a benevolent royal; use your imagination to create ideas in which everyone wins -- use your charisma and powers of persuasion to sell them to those around you. Tribune Content Agency,, "Horoscope for July 2, 2019: Aries, think and move fast; Capricorn, you may feel slightly ignored," 2 July 2019 Erdogan’s court journalists often contrast a generous, benevolent Turkey with destructive Western colonialism. Michael Rubin, National Review, "Turkey’s Africa Strategy Threatens to Breed Islamist Extremism," 26 June 2019 Even services that seem benevolent, like smoking-cessation and mental health apps, have been quietly sharing sensitive info about their users. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, "When smart devices watch you, what do they do with the data?," 20 June 2019 The aliens are mostly benevolent, but any overstepping of boundaries is met with furious anger—thus complicating the relationship between Water Island's inhabitants and their new neighbors. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Ars To-Be-Read: Our most anticipated books for the second half of 2019," 8 June 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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Statistics for benevolent

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for benevolent

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

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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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