di·​a·​bol·​i·​cal | \ ˌdī-ə-ˈbä-li-kəl How to pronounce diabolical (audio) \
variants: or diabolic \ ˌdī-​ə-​ˈbä-​lik How to pronounce diabolical (audio) \

Definition of diabolical

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

Other Words from diabolical

diabolically \ ˌdī-​ə-​ˈbä-​li-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce diabolical (audio) \ adverb
diabolicalness \ ˌdī-​ə-​ˈbä-​li-​kəl-​nəs How to pronounce diabolical (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for diabolical



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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 Roth and Hall are both excellent and carry the film for the first hour or so: she with her mix of instability and steel and he with his diabolical charm. Michael O'sullivan, Washington Post, 27 July 2022 Finally, the Devil’s Gate Bourbon pays tribute to the pioneers who would risk their lives traversing across Devil’s Gate, a narrow, rocky gorge, one of the most formidable and diabolical obstacles the pioneers had to cross. The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 July 2022 The Lincoln Lawyer, The Terminal List, starring Chris Pratt as a Navy Seal who uncovers a diabolical conspiracy concerning an overseas mission that went wrong, doesn’t feel like episodic television. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 1 July 2022 Ricky Gervais is on autopilot as Ika Chu, the diabolical Somali cat who wants to perfect the view from his palace by wiping Kakamucho off the map. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, 13 July 2022 Math tells me that combining these sports into one new international discipline — Sumo break dancing — would be the most diabolical test of athleticism in the history of mankind, but that’s a column idea for another day. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 11 July 2022 Yet since its inception, it has been dogged by propaganda that paints it as diabolical sorcery—the perpetrators of chattel slavery led the earliest campaigns to portray Vodou as sinister. Nadege Green, The Atlantic, 29 June 2022 The interesting thing about the diabolical mother is that this is now a subject of women’s work. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 26 June 2022 Colonel Tom Parker absolutely did diabolical things. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 23 June 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of diabolical

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for diabolical

diabolical from diabolic + -ical; diabolic going back to Middle English deabolik, borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French dyabolique, borrowed from Late Latin diabolicus, borrowed from Late Greek diabolikós, going back to Greek, "slanderous," from diábolos "accuser, backbiter, slanderer" + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at devil entry 1

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

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Last Updated

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Diabolical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diabolical. Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for diabolical


di·​a·​bol·​i·​cal | \ ˌdī-ə-ˈbä-li-kəl How to pronounce diabolical (audio) \
variants: or diabolic \ -​ˈbä-​lik \

Kids Definition of diabolical


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