\ 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 sometimesˈē-(ˌ)vi(l)- \ adverb
evilness \ˈē-vəl-nəs, British often and US sometimesˈē-(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

Gardens abound, as do horses, flowers, seas, dreams, generals, mountains, heads and monsters, making for a generally airy atmosphere coupled with Gallardo’s substantial preoccupations: life, death, evil, Edens, priests, murder and God. Scott Cheshire, latimes.com, "Sara Gallardo's work has finally been published in English. It's about time," 6 July 2018 Throughout her reflections about paradoxical literary realities, cultural contrasts, and the natures of evil, power and suffering — Cusk steadily ponders the idea of individual agency. Joan Frank, SFChronicle.com, "‘Kudos,’ by Rachel Cusk," 6 July 2018 Coker is careful to avoid making all his Jamaican characters evil, or turning them into ethnic stereotypes. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "Luke Cage is the first Netflix MCU show with a strong season 2," 22 June 2018 The scene drips with stereotypical evil, particularly its use of the creepiest fluorescent lighting imaginable, and it's made doubly hilarious by the average selling price of each dinosaur: roughly $15 million. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom review: This nonsense has gone full Sharknado," 22 June 2018 Although English nationalism is the sum of all evils, other forms of nationalism (Irish, Scottish, Palestinian) are fervently embraced. The Economist, "Podsnappery and its reverse," 21 June 2018 The people want good versus evil, love versus intolerance. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "What Brought Sense8 Back—and What Killed It in the First Place," 8 June 2018 This is not a story about criminal injustice, falsely incarcerated people, evil, or even Terra Morehead. Michael Harriot, The Root, "‘Evilest White Woman on Earth’: The Criminal Injustice of Terra Morehead," 6 June 2018 Hovhannisyan, as a pure-hearted, tragic Siegfried, was the focus of Odile’s treachery and, in the end, the force that triumphed over evil. Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee Ballet's 'Swan Lake' is one gorgeous dance after another," 1 June 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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History and Etymology for evil


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

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Phrases Related to evil

the evil eye

Statistics for evil

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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).


the setting in which something occurs

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