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 And in one sequence, Cassie even lures a teenage girl into her car for what looks to be a nefarious purpose. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Promising Young Woman," 15 Jan. 2021 While many people believed that the video wires and two-way mirror meant that the wall was used for something nefarious, some people apparently had other, less-creepy theories. Michael Hollan, Fox News, "New homeowners find two-way mirror and video equipment wires hidden behind bathroom wall," 18 Jan. 2021 No charges were brought against Warnock, but that hasn't stopped Loeffler from suggesting something nefarious. Barnini Chakraborty, Washington Examiner, "Negative ads in Georgia Senate runoff race go from strange to absurd," 4 Jan. 2021 And in The Wilds, that fear is made real by the shadowy organisation using the girls and their plight for their own nefarious means. Rosie Knight,, "The Wilds Puts Clever Twists On Pop Culture’s Most Classic Survival Stories," 14 Dec. 2020 Some disinformation questions the need for the vaccine or attempts to paint vaccination efforts as nefarious, according to research by First Draft, a non-profit that investigates online information. Ashley Nerbovig, Detroit Free Press, "As COVID-19 vaccine rollout nears, disinformation already circulating: What to watch for," 11 Dec. 2020 Some QAnon theories describe President Trump as a savior figure elected to end these nefarious activities—all of which have been perpetrated by the left, naturally—and bring alleged members to justice. Fortune, "The biggest conspiracy theories of 2020 (and why they won’t die)," 31 Dec. 2020 Is this a normal seasonal event or something more nefarious like a fungal issue? oregonlive, "Need help hiding new neighbor’s big concrete wall? Ask an expert," 27 Dec. 2020 Persinger, for example, made several nefarious insinuations about the time Harris spent on a psychologist’s website right before Cooper’s death. Christian Boone, ajc, "Judge to decide whether her rulings deprived Ross Harris of fair trial," 15 Dec. 2020

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

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nefarious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of nefarious

formal : evil or immoral

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