\ˈē-vəl, British often and US sometimes ˈē-(ˌ)vil\
eviler or eviller; evilest or evillest

Definition of evil 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked an evil impulse

b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct a person of evil reputation

2a archaic : inferior

b : causing discomfort or repulsion : offensive an evil odor

c : disagreeable woke late and in an evil temper

3a : causing harm : pernicious the evil institution of slavery

b : marked by misfortune : unlucky



Definition of evil (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : the fact of suffering, misfortune, and wrongdoing

b : a cosmic evil force

2 : something that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity



Definition of evil (Entry 3 of 3)


: in an evil manner

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Other Words from evil


evil adverb archaic
evilly \ˈē-və(l)-lē, British often and US sometimes ˈē-(ˌ)vi(l)- \ adverb
evilness \ˈē-vəl-nəs, British often and US sometimes ˈē-(ˌ)vil- \ noun

Examples of evil in a Sentence


She drank an evil potion. The city has fallen on evil days. It was an evil omen.


the battle of good versus evil our free will allows us to choose between good and evil
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But remember: Bose–Einstein condensates are not evil. Thilo Stöferle, Ars Technica, "The science of Spectral: Is that really how Bose–Einstein condensate behaves?," 18 July 2017 President Donald Trump so craves to have the evil mainstream media love him. vanityfair.com, "Trump’s Emotional Roller Coaster Jumps the Tracks," 17 July 2017 John Robert Lindsey made a properly evil Monostatos (a dead ringer for the vampire Nosferatu), accompanied by terrifying dogs rather than slaves. Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati.com, "'The Magic Flute' a surreal visual extravaganza," 16 July 2017 The morning babble Trump & Friends was back in full post-holiday boosterish mode, bashing the evil mainstream media for suggesting President Trump might be pandering in comments about a British child with the rare illness. The Hive, "New York Not Impressed By Rahm Emanuel’s Gloating," 5 July 2017 Pamina has the short bob hairdo of flapper-era star Louise Brooks, the birdcatcher is a Buster Keaton-style Papageno and the evil Monostatos reminds of Nosferatu. Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati.com, "Making magic with an animated 'Magic Flute'," 6 July 2017 Madigan performed his evil genius tax raising act — with the 15 craven Republicans — in early July, not June. John Kass, chicagotribune.com, "No shortage of people standing tall in the face of little support," 5 July 2017 The Master's return isn't blockbuster enough for me, even with the good versus evil Superman III undertones in his cheeky exchanges with Missy. Kelly Fiveash, Ars Technica, "Doctor Who review: Time tumbles out of control in The Doctor Falls," 3 July 2017 Well, not evil, really, but more bureaucratic, legalistic b.s. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Data Sheet—Friday, June 30, 2017," 30 June 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For Faye, believing in justice is a protest against evil. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Empty Space of Rachel Cusk," 15 June 2018 That kid saw Luke — the dreamer who became a Jedi knight, fought for good against evil, and believed his father could be redeemed — as the character to idolize. T.j. Furman, Philly.com, "Han Solo or Luke Skywalker? This 'Star Wars' fan made his choice a long time ago," 21 May 2018 Why is there so much violence, so much evil and cruelty, so little support, so little compassion? Alice Driver, Longreads, "The Mutilated and the Disappeared," 31 Jan. 2018 Now, remember, once you brand someone as evil that allows for any or all behavior. Fox News, "Gutfeld: Trump is succeeding and it's the media's nightmare," 24 June 2018 The goal may be to have audiences waver between deciding whether Mariah or Bushmaster is the greater evil, but that setup is clumsy. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "Luke Cage is the first Netflix MCU show with a strong season 2," 22 June 2018 The real world is full of people loath to define anything as evil without the benefit of hindsight. Joshua Rivera, GQ, "How America Makes People into Monsters," 20 June 2018 Instead of ancient Greece, he's moved to a frozen land of Norse myth, hiding amongst gods and monsters, quietly raising his frail son and trying to forget about the evil he's done in the past. Julie Muncy, WIRED, "God of War Is a Messy, Beguiling Take on Fantasy Violence and Toxic Masculinity," 25 Apr. 2018 There is such a thing as evil, and its foremost incarnation in world history is Adolf Hitler. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "Outside the Limits of the Human Imagination," 27 Mar. 2018

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for evil


Middle English, from Old English yfel; akin to Old High German ubil evil

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Learn More about evil

Phrases Related to evil

the evil eye

Statistics for evil

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Time Traveler for evil

The first known use of evil was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for evil



English Language Learners Definition of evil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: morally bad

: causing harm or injury to someone

: marked by bad luck or bad events



English Language Learners Definition of evil (Entry 2 of 2)

: the force of things that are morally bad

: something that is harmful or bad


\ˈē-vəl \

Kids Definition of evil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : morally bad : wicked an evil influence

2 : causing harm : tending to injure an evil spell



Kids Definition of evil (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something that brings sorrow, trouble, or destruction the evils of poverty

2 : the fact of suffering or wrongdoing We must rid the world of evil.

3 : bad behavior or moral state : wickedness … Mr. Lapham had discovered the evil that had gone on in his absence …— Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain

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Comments on evil

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


to teach someone the beliefs of a group

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