di·​a·​bol·​i·​cal | \ˌdī-ə-ˈbä-li-kəl \
variants: or diabolic \ -​ˈbä-​lik \

Definition of diabolical 

: of, relating to, or characteristic of the devil : devilish a diabolical plot

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Other Words from diabolical

diabolically \ -​li-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb
diabolicalness \ -​li-​kəl-​nəs \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for diabolical


cacodemonic, demoniac (also demoniacal), demonian, demonic (also demonical), devilish, fiendish, Luciferian, satanic


angelic (or angelical)

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Did You Know?

Like the word devil, "diabolical" traces back to Latin diabolus, which itself descends from Greek diabolos, a word that literally means "slanderer." In English, "diabolical" has many nuances of meaning. It can describe the devil himself (as in "my diabolical visitor") or anything related to or characteristic of him in appearance, behavior, or thought; examples include "diabolical lore," "a diabolical grin," and "a diabolical plot." In British slang, "diabolical" can also mean "disgraceful" or "bad," as in "the food was diabolical."

Examples of diabolical in a Sentence

the police quickly mobilized to track down the diabolical serial killer

Recent Examples on the Web

USA TODAY Sports There is no horse for the diabolical Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Steve Dimeglio, USA TODAY, "Players Championship: Here's our pick to win PGA Tour's flagship event," 9 May 2018 Grand dames like Merion, Pinehurst and Shinny were born with penal rough, tricky routes and, most significantly, diabolical greens. Marcus Hayes, Philly.com, "Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth collapse at U.S. Open," 14 June 2018 The final expression on her hooded face is diabolical and unreadable. Rena Gross, Billboard, "'The Handmaid's Tale': Season 2, Episode 13 Recap: 19 Startling Moments in 'The Word'," 11 July 2018 Rauner cheered Rahm on, urging him to close more union schools, cut taxes on the rich, and do other diabolical things near and dear to the governor's gumball-size heart. Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, "News / Politics / Race Phony feud: Don’t be fooled by the Twitter barbs between Rahm and Rauner over Dan Ryan protest," 9 July 2018 Frank Lloyd Wright once said, and now comes LeBron James, at 33, the world’s best basketball player, attempting his next act in the land of Neutra houses, infinity pools, diabolical traffic and In-N-Out. Jason Gay, WSJ, "It’s La-La Land for LeBron James," 2 July 2018 Russia is the most diabolical sports doping power on the planet. Christine Brennan, USA TODAY, "Don't let Russia's World Cup success obscure history of cheating," 2 July 2018 Grant, giving one of his best performances in recent memory, imbues him with a certain charm and power, two assets that can feel diabolical under different circumstances. Yohana Desta, HWD, "Hugh Grant Gets Comfortable with Controversy in A Very English Scandal," 29 June 2018 In the same way, the books sidestep the true face of misogyny: if men who hate women are normal and common, then misogynist violence does not have to be so diabolical. Alice Bolin, Longreads, "The Daughter as Detective," 26 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'diabolical.' 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 diabolical

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for diabolical

Middle English deabolik, from Middle French diabolique, from Late Latin diabolicus, from diabolus — see devil entry 1

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Last Updated

30 Sep 2018

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

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English Language Learners Definition of diabolical

: extremely evil

: very unpleasant, bad, or annoying


di·​a·​bol·​i·​cal | \ˌdī-ə-ˈbä-li-kəl \
variants: or diabolic \ -​ˈbä-​lik \

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What made you want to look up diabolical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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