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

There, inmates die all too often, not from some nefarious scheme, but of neglect — intentional and otherwise. Yvonne Abraham,, "Prison deaths require no dark conspiracy," 14 Aug. 2019 Another Boston-area team is accused of using nefarious spy methods to get ahead: the Barrington, R.I. Little League baseball team. Dennis Young,, "New Hampshire Little League team accuses Rhode Island of stealing signs while playing regional in Connecticut," 14 Aug. 2019 Prosecutor Charles Blomquist called the testimony a mistaken memory and nothing nefarious. Juliana Kim,, "Baltimore cop gave conflicting testimony in trial of man accused of killing Taylor Hayes, judge tells jurors," 13 Aug. 2019 After three nefarious farmers declare war on them, a sly fox rallies his animal neighbors to fight back. Los Angeles Times, "Here are the feature and TV films airing the week of Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019," 11 Aug. 2019 Number three, don’t assume that every app or piece of technology coming out of Russia is necessarily nefarious and number four: it’s fun. Larry Magid, The Mercury News, "Magid: FaceApp requires caution, not fear," 19 July 2019 Combined with software that analyzes public blockchain transactions, that information can help unmask who’s behind a nefarious deal. Gregory Barber, WIRED, "Everyone Wants Facebook's Libra to Be Regulated. But How?," 18 July 2019 Monitoring alerts you to something nefarious only after it’s happened. Michelle Singletary, Washington Post, "If a Capital One credit card is in your wallet, here’s how you can protect yourself," 30 July 2019 Or was there, perhaps, something more nefarious at play? Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "This 33,000-Year-Old Man May Have Been Killed by a Left-Handed Murderer," 5 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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Statistics for nefarious

Last Updated

18 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for nefarious

The first known use of nefarious was circa 1609

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English Language Learners Definition of nefarious

formal : evil or immoral

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nefarious

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Spanish Central: Translation of nefarious

Nglish: Translation of nefarious for Spanish Speakers

Comments on nefarious

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


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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