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

Synonyms & Antonyms for diabolical



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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 But one of the most diabolical methods, right at the top, is asking a designer to do his or her best work all over again. David Netto, ELLE Decor, "Tom Scheerer Adds Cool Elegance in a Redo of a New York City Apartment," 15 Oct. 2020 There’s a tempting story to be told about all this: that a small clique of diabolical fossil fuel interests long ago plotted to deny the reality of global warming. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "ExxonMobil Should Not Exist," 6 Oct. 2020 The seats are diabolical—holdovers from an era when all families had six members. Phil Berg, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1990 Luxury Off-Road SUV Comparison," 2 Sep. 2020 This diabolical puzzle is infamously challenging, according to our experts. Kai Burkhardt, CNN Underscored, "20 gorgeous puzzles that will keep you occupied for hours," 18 Aug. 2020 The new season will see Wynonna taking on her most diabolical enemy yet, with the Earp family curse finally broken but also without her trusty gun Peacemaker. Tyler Aquilina, EW.com, "Wynonna Earp season 4 finally has a premiere date — and a trailer," 26 June 2020 No one suggests that Mengele’s twin or eye-color research was of lasting value, despite its diabolical origins. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Revisiting Mengele’s Malignant “Race Science”," 15 June 2020 What will ultimately happen to the four cops responsible for Floyd’s killing will likely hinge on the legal nuance of whether they are found to have acted out of vile malice, or mere diabolical impunity. J.c. Hallman, The New Republic, "Minneapolis in the Aftermath," 4 June 2020 This wasn’t the fraud perpetrated by sprinters Ben Johnson or Marion Jones, as diabolical and awful as their doping and lies were. Christine Brennan, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Enough is enough. Let this be the end of Lance Armstrong's story," 25 May 2020

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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Time Traveler for diabolical

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

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Last Updated

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Diabolical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diabolical. Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for diabolical


How to pronounce diabolical (audio)

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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