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

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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 What extreme sleep deprivation does to humans makes this a diabolical snare, one of the better premises to come down the sci-fi pike in a while. Michael Ordoña, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2021 The diabolical, dalmatian spot-loving character's smoky eyes, scarlet red lips, black-and-white split hair, and porcelain skin have been cemented into our memories basically since birth. Devon Abelman, Allure, 29 May 2021 Every Cinderella needs a wicked stepmother, and here that role falls to the imperious Baroness von Hellman, played by an impossibly elegant and diabolical Emma Thompson. Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2021 The crime sets off a chain of events that would expose a diabolical scheme involving Pam. Lynette Rice, EW.com, 11 May 2021 The journaling assignments are one diabolical example. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 4 May 2021 The shadow of a diabolical specter is gradually introduced. Los Angeles Times, 3 May 2021 After all, India was having a relatively good pandemic until it wasn't—now, its diabolical COVID crisis has led countries around the world to slam their doors shut to Indian arrivals. David Meyer, Fortune, 3 May 2021 The investigation exposed one of the most diabolical and meticulous serial killers in American history. Peter Van Sant, CBS News, 13 Mar. 2021

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

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

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Diabolical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diabolical. Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of diabolical

: extremely evil
British, informal : very unpleasant, bad, or annoying


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

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