ne·​far·​i·​ous | \ ni-ˈfer-ē-əs How to pronounce nefarious (audio) \

Definition of nefarious

: flagrantly wicked or impious : evil

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Other Words from nefarious

nefariously adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for nefarious

vicious, villainous, iniquitous, nefarious, corrupt, degenerate mean highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct. vicious may directly oppose virtuous in implying moral depravity, or may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence. a vicious gangster villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic. a villainous assault iniquitous implies absence of all signs of justice or fairness. an iniquitous system of taxation nefarious suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct. the nefarious rackets of organized crime corrupt stresses a loss of moral integrity or probity causing betrayal of principle or sworn obligations. city hall was rife with corrupt politicians degenerate suggests having sunk to an especially vicious or enervated condition. a degenerate regime propped up by foreign powers

What Is the Difference Between vicious, villainous, and nefarious?

Vicious and villainous are two wicked synonyms of nefarious, and, like nefarious, both mean "highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct." But these synonyms are not used in exactly the same way in all situations. Vicious may imply moral depravity or it may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence. Villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic, while nefarious (which derives from the Latin noun nefas, meaning "crime") suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct.

Examples of nefarious in a Sentence

Moreover, those starry-eyed states inclined to perceive international relations in moral terms frequently underestimate the nefarious machinations of their competitors on the world political stage. — Richard Wolin, New Republic, 4 June 2001 … I always give the same response: Just because Frank posed for pictures with every leading capo, underboss and cement contractor of the day doesn't mean that he joined them in their nefarious underworld activities. Oh, occasionally he rode along on a hit or two, but that was just one of those social obligations … — Lewis Grossberger, Time, 21 Dec. 1998 Three-tenths of a mile uphill from our mailbox on the road, that bend is so nefarious that neophytes often skidded into a snowbank or wound up fender-deep in mud there. — Maxine Kumin, In Deep, 1987 a nefarious scheme to cheat people out of their money the chaste heroines and nefarious villains of old-time melodramas
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Recent Examples on the Web This was not as much as the €20,000 the Croatian side were fined for their nefarious activities, which included the throwing of objects as well as 'acts of damages' at the Etihad Stadium., "UEFA Fine Liverpool €10,000 for 'Field Invasion' During Champions League Clash With RB Salzburg," 17 Oct. 2019 Even in India, this nefarious activity surfaced in the first half of this year, during the Lok Sabha elections, the 23-year old Cambridge, MIT, Harvard graduate said. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Pakistani users and bots had a hand in trending #GoBackModi on Twitter," 16 Oct. 2019 Hackers are actively exploiting a critical weakness found in most mobile phones to surreptitiously track the location of users and possibly carry out other nefarious actions, researchers warned on Thursday. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Hackers are exploiting a platform-agnostic flaw to track mobile phone locations," 12 Sep. 2019 But for those millions of travelers with trips booked, police and resort officials are asking the public to wait for conclusions from investigations before making assumptions — and denying there is anything nefarious at play. Gina Martinez, Time, "5 U.S. Tourists Have Died in the Dominican Republic Since April. Should You Cancel Your Trip?," 7 June 2019 BlueKeep allows those machines to be corrupted and used to conduct denial of service attacks and likely more nefarious actions. Chris Morris, Fortune, "'Devastating Computer Worms': NSA Urges Windows Update to Patch Major Security Flaw," 5 June 2019 In any case, Sam isn’t going to give into Danica’s nefarious plot quite so easily, and quickly flees after fending off an amorous attack by Samuel that results in his sudden, bloody demise. Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Satanic Panic': Film Review," 6 Sep. 2019 While exhumations were not all carried out in the same manner, the general idea was to dig up the corpse to stop its nefarious activity. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "New England ‘Vampire’ Was Likely a Farmer Named John," 5 Aug. 2019 The dark web is the world of the criminal underground, where data is bought and sold by criminal actors—including nation states—and used to fund nefarious activities. Kristina Libby, Popular Mechanics, "The Capital One Hack Probably Put Your Data on the Dark Web," 30 July 2019

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

circa 1609, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nefarious

Latin nefarius, from nefas crime, from ne- not + fas right, divine law; perhaps akin to Greek themis law, tithenai to place — more at do

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Time Traveler for nefarious

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The first known use of nefarious was circa 1609

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Last Updated

24 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Nefarious.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 6 December 2019.

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More Definitions for nefarious


How to pronounce nefarious (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nefarious

formal : evil or immoral

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nefarious

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nefarious

Spanish Central: Translation of nefarious

Nglish: Translation of nefarious for Spanish Speakers

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very cautious or careful

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