hei·​nous | \ ˈhā-nəs How to pronounce heinous (audio) \

Definition of heinous

: hatefully or shockingly evil : abominable

Other Words from heinous

heinously adverb
heinousness noun

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Humans have contrasted love with hate and good with evil for eons, putting love and good on one side and hate and evil on the other. The etymology of heinous reflects the association of hate with that which is evil or horrible. During the 14th century, English borrowed heinous from the Anglo-French haine (meaning "hate"), a noun derived from hair ("to hate"), a verb of Germanic origin that is related, like the English word hate, to the Old High German haz ("hate"). Over time English speakers came to use the word to reflect the sense of horror evoked by intense hatred.

Examples of heinous in a Sentence

While admittedly the crimes rappers commit have often been more heinous than those committed by other entertainers, rappers seem to face more opprobrium. Though hip hop has become mainstream, much of mass media still has antiquated ideas of rap music and rappers. Vibe, May 2001 The verdict … also defined rape for the first time as a crime against humanity, one of the most heinous crimes. The tribunal has previously tried cases involving rape, but defined the rape as torture. — Marlise Simons, New York Times, 23 Feb. 2001 It's hard enough to figure out what a defendant was thinking when he committed the heinous and bizarre act that has made him a candidate for the insanity defense. And state of mind is what the insanity defense is all about. — Laura Mansnerus, New York Times Book Review, 26 Oct. 1997 These murders were especially heinous. people accused of committing heinous crimes
Recent Examples on the Web In that case, the crimes might only become more heinous and severe restrictions on the use of cryptocurrencies more politically palatable. Justin Lahart, WSJ, 18 June 2021 The attack was a heinous and cowardly act, but what came afterward was, if obviously much less serious, infuriating in its own right. Rich Lowry, National Review, 15 Sep. 2020 So why would the judiciary go so easy on such a heinous crime? Matt Ford, The New Republic, 4 Apr. 2022 But the Broward County state attorney, Michael J. Satz, turned down that plea, saying he was obliged to seek capital punishment for such a heinous crime. New York Times, 4 Apr. 2022 The story as it should be told, of five young Black men whose lives were blown wide open by one of our justice system’s most heinous blunders. Matthew Gilbert, BostonGlobe.com, 3 Feb. 2022 Unrelenting determination coupled with advancing technology helped solve one of Spokane’s most heinous and haunting crimes: the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl, 62 years ago. CBS News, 22 Nov. 2021 Sowell, who committed one of the most heinous series of crimes in the city’s history, died in February at the age of 61. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, 6 Nov. 2021 The author of The Light in Hidden Places pens a noir thriller about a teenager who comes to New York City after World War II bent on finding the Nazi physician behind some of the war's most heinous medical experiments. Toni Fitzgerald, Forbes, 31 Aug. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'heinous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of heinous

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for heinous

Middle English, from Anglo-French hainus, heinous, from haine hate, from hair to hate, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German haz hate — more at hate

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The first known use of heinous was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

7 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Heinous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heinous. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for heinous


hei·​nous | \ ˈhā-nəs How to pronounce heinous (audio) \

Legal Definition of heinous

: enormously and shockingly evil a heinous crime

Other Words from heinous

heinously adverb
heinousness noun


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