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

Definition of heinous

: hatefully or shockingly evil : abominable

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Other Words from heinous

heinously adverb
heinousness noun

Did You Know?

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 Middle French haine, meaning "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
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Recent Examples on the Web

The basic idea is that the federal government will apportion among the citizens living now the historical guilt for heinous acts committed by people long dead against other people long dead. James Freeman, WSJ, "Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Qualified to Teach History, Either," 19 Mar. 2019 Should any positive depictions of the Incas be covered up, in light of this heinous practice? Alejandro Bermudez, WSJ, "Catholics Against Columbus," 24 Jan. 2019 He transitions from scene to scene, committing acts as heinous as murder and as joyful as playfully dancing with a group of young kids in school uniforms. NBC News, "'This is America': Donald Glover's shocking new video tackles race, violence and freedom," 7 May 2018 Both have said the peace deal signed by the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is too generous to the rebels, particularly justice provisions that set minimal terms for the most heinous of war crimes. Chris Kraul, latimes.com, "Candidates critical of historic peace accord dominate Colombia's election," 12 Mar. 2018 There shouldn’t be a statute of limitations on crimes as heinous as these. Marcos Breton, sacbee, "‘East Area Rapist’ still haunts Sacramento | The Sacramento Bee," 21 June 2016 So why has nothing changed if this policy is so heinous that no one outside of Jeff Sessions wants credit for it? Luke Darby, GQ, "Trump Thinks Thousands of Detained, Traumatized Immigrant Kids Are a Great Bargaining Chip," 16 June 2018 Obviously, some youthful, heinous actions deserve to reverberate across decades, which is why teens like Marvin Roberts, 16, are rightfully charged as adults. Ronnie Polaneczky, Philly.com, "Childhood criminal record won't let daughter care for sick mom | Ronnie Polaneczky," 23 May 2018 A few days later, the crown prince publicly denied involvement in the murder, calling it a heinous crime. Justin Scheck, WSJ, "Investors Fret Over Khashoggi Killing but Still Maintain Saudi Ties," 26 Dec. 2018

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.

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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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Dictionary Entries near heinous






heir apparency

heir apparent

Statistics for heinous

Last Updated

25 Apr 2019

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

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More Definitions for heinous



English Language Learners Definition of heinous

: very bad or evil : deserving of hate or contempt


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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More from Merriam-Webster on heinous

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with heinous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for heinous

Spanish Central: Translation of heinous

Nglish: Translation of heinous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of heinous for Arabic Speakers

Comments on heinous

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


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

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