di·​a·​bol·​i·​cal ˌdī-ə-ˈbä-li-kəl How to pronounce diabolical (audio)
variants or diabolic
: of, relating to, or characteristic of the devil : devilish
a diabolical plot
diabolically adverb
diabolicalness noun

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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 criminals before they struck again
Recent Examples on the Web Sorry to be dramatic, but there is something diabolical about an uncomfortable sports bra. Hannah Dylan Pasternak, SELF, 7 Feb. 2024 As a result, even with better production wrinkles, some exciting challenge tweaks, and some brilliantly diabolical moves by Jesse, the season itself felt a bit snoozy and lacking in huge, iconic moments (outside of the Cody blindside, of course). Dalton Ross, EW.com, 22 Dec. 2023 What's more, the Esprit V-8 would have logged even quicker results were its shifter not so diabolical. John Phillips, Car and Driver, 8 Aug. 2023 Eggo’s ‘Brunch in a Jar’ sippin’ cream is a boozy, diabolical disaster Nope, nope, nope. Emily Heil, Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2024 This dark comedy from Argentina centers around a diabolical everyman. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Dec. 2023 Prosecutors detailed a diabolical plot and a life of lies: Milliron had secretly been Larry Rudolph's mistress for more than a decade. Mike Levine, ABC News, 20 Dec. 2023 Perhaps the most diabolical aspect of Trump’s postmodern authoritarian skill set is his way of winking at his darkest intentions. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 10 Dec. 2023 This is the latest in a diabolical trend of government officials across the globe trying a little too hard to prove their Swiftie status and to seem relatable to their younger constituents. Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone, 11 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'diabolical.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near diabolical

Cite this Entry

“Diabolical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diabolical. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


di·​a·​bol·​i·​cal ˌdī-ə-ˈbäl-i-kəl How to pronounce diabolical (audio)
variants or diabolic
: of, relating to, or characteristic of the devil : fiendish
diabolically adverb
diabolicalness noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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