in·​vid·​i·​ous | \ in-ˈvi-dē-əs How to pronounce invidious (audio) \

Definition of invidious

1a : of an unpleasant or objectionable nature : obnoxious invidious remarks
b : of a kind to cause harm or resentment an invidious comparison
2 : tending to cause discontent, animosity, or envy the invidious task of arbitration
3 : envious

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Other Words from invidious

invidiously adverb
invidiousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for invidious



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Fittingly, "invidious" is a relative of "envy." Both are descendants of "invidia," the Latin word for "envy," which in turn comes from invidēre, meaning "to look askance at or "to envy." ("Invidious" descends from "invidia" by way of the Latin adjective invidiosus, meaning "envious, whereas "envy" comes to English via the Anglo-French noun envie.) These days, however, "invidious" is rarely used as a synonym for "envious." The preferred uses are primarily pejorative, describing things that are unpleasant (such as "invidious choices" and "invidious tasks") or worthy of scorn ("invidious remarks" or "invidious comparisons").

Examples of invidious in a Sentence

The boss made invidious distinctions between employees. inevitably, his remarkable success attracted the invidious attention of the other sales representatives
Recent Examples on the Web Of course, comparisons to Davidson’s greatest hits are not just invidious but unfair to Ritchie. Los Angeles Times, 10 June 2021 Erecting private obstacles blocking public access to state laws is especially invidious. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 18 Mar. 2021 The statement compared Israel’s border wall to the Berlin Wall and drew indirect but invidious analogies to apartheid, slavery and Nazism. Barton Swaim, WSJ, 16 Dec. 2020 Even California’s liberal electorate signaled last month that crude and invidious affirmative action should remain a thing of the past. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, 8 Dec. 2020 This fusion of racial grievance and post-racialism created a toxic brew, poisonous to the ongoing efforts to contest white supremacy and protective of the invidious status quo that the Voting Rights Act had tried to interrupt. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, The New Republic, 23 Oct. 2020 The more invidious reason to claim that people are born with certain traits is to avoid having to help people do any better. Eugenia Cheng, Wired, 25 Aug. 2020 Again and again, the metaphor gets invoked by leading politicians, typically as a warning against a hidden, invidious threat. Ben Zimmer, WSJ, 21 Aug. 2020 When Britain’s death toll from the virus first surpassed those of other European countries in May, Johnson argued that country-to-country comparisons were invidious because governments collect and analyze data differently., 31 July 2020

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

1606, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for invidious

Latin invidiosus envious, invidious, from invidia envy — more at envy

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The first known use of invidious was in 1606

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in victory


in view

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Last Updated

23 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Invidious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jul. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of invidious

formal : unpleasant and likely to cause bad feelings in other people


in·​vid·​i·​ous | \ in-ˈvi-dē-əs How to pronounce invidious (audio) \

Legal Definition of invidious

: of, relating to, or being discrimination that arises from the creation of a classification that is arbitrary, irrational, or capricious and not related to a legitimate purpose

Other Words from invidious

invidiously adverb
invidiousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on invidious

Nglish: Translation of invidious for Spanish Speakers


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