sinister

adjective
sin·​is·​ter | \ ˈsi-nə-stər How to pronounce sinister (audio) , archaic sə-ˈni- \

Definition of sinister

1 : singularly evil or productive of evil
2 : accompanied by or leading to disaster
3 : presaging ill fortune or trouble
4a : of, relating to, or situated to the left or on the left side of something especially : being or relating to the side of a heraldic shield at the left of the person bearing it
b : of ill omen by reason of being on the left
5 archaic : unfavorable, unlucky
6 archaic : fraudulent

Other Words from sinister

sinisterly adverb
sinisterness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sinister

sinister, baleful, malign mean seriously threatening evil or disaster. sinister suggests a general or vague feeling of fear or apprehension on the part of the observer. a sinister aura haunts the place baleful imputes perniciousness or destructiveness to something whether working openly or covertly. exerting a corrupt and baleful influence malign applies to what is inherently evil or harmful. the malign effects of racism

insidious, sinister, or pernicious?

Few would choose to be associated with people or things that are insidious, sinister, or pernicious; all three of these words have decidedly unpleasant meanings, each with its own particular shade of nastiness.

Insidious comes from a Latin word for “ambush” (insidiae), which is fitting, as this word often carries the meanings “deceitful,” “stealthy,” or “harmful in an imperceptible fashion.” The first two meanings may be applied to people or things (“an insidious enemy,” “an insidious plot”), while the last is usually applied to things (“insidious problems,” “insidious sexism”), in particular to the gradual progress of a disease (“an insidious malignancy”).

Sinister comes from a Latin word meaning “on the left side, unlucky, inauspicious.” Although it is commonly used today in the sense “evil” (“a sinister cult leader”; “a sinister plot”), it may also suggest an ominous foreshadowing of some unfavorable turn of events (“a sinister omen”).

Pernicious has largely stayed true to its etymological root, the Latin noun pernicies “ruin, destruction.” Its original meaning in English, “highly injurious or destructive,” usually applies to things (“pernicious apathy,” “pernicious effects”) and medical conditions (“pernicious fever,” “pernicious anemia”). When applied to people, pernicious means “wicked.”

Is sinister unfair to the left-handed?

Sinister has an etymology that might seem a bit biased against the left-handed portion of the population, as this word, which has had naught but disagreeable meanings for over five hundred years now, comes from a Latin word of the same spelling that means “on the left side.” We find this root in other English words, such as the adjective sinistral (“left-handed”) and the adverb sinistrad (“toward the left side”). To make things even more unfair, the Latin word dexter (“on the right side”) has given rise to English words with largely positive meanings, such as dexterity and ambidextrous.

Examples of sinister in a Sentence

There was something sinister about him. the movie relies too much on sinister background music to create the suspense that the plot sorely lacks
Recent Examples on the Web Bent on establishing a repressive regime, sinister political forces are cracking down on dissent by literally taking away the voices of animals. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 10 June 2022 Liros Chris: has become one of the [00:16:00] most sinister forces in Ohio. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 3 June 2022 Vecna is the most sinister villain of the series, who psychologically preys on teens’ worst fears to torment and kill them. Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 June 2022 As Oskar learns the sinister truth about his new confidant, a trail of blood soon follows in this story of friendship and fallout. Andrew Walsh, EW.com, 5 May 2022 For the most sinister look, the new Black Appearance package includes dark trim for the exterior badges, grille, and rims. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, 9 Mar. 2022 But there was a sinister side to Inglewood’s new prosperity. Justin Ray, Los Angeles Times, 7 Feb. 2022 From a sinister necromancer to a powerful curse, the group confronts a variety of obstacles that not only test their skills, but also the strength of their bond. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 12 Jan. 2022 Fans will appreciate two returns: Brad Dourif as the sinister voice of Chucky and Jennifer Tilly as the doll’s homicidal bride. Jeanne Jakle, San Antonio Express-News, 22 Sep. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sinister.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of sinister

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sinister

Middle English sinistre, from Anglo-French senestre on the left, from Latin sinistr-, sinister on the left side, unlucky, inauspicious

Learn More About sinister

Time Traveler for sinister

Time Traveler

The first known use of sinister was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near sinister

sinify

sinister

sinister base point

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Last Updated

9 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sinister.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sinister. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for sinister

sinister

adjective
sin·​is·​ter | \ ˈsi-nəs-tər How to pronounce sinister (audio) \

Kids Definition of sinister

1 : threatening evil, harm, or danger We heard sinister rumors.
2 : evil entry 1 sense 1, corrupt We feared he would do something far more sinister.

More from Merriam-Webster on sinister

Nglish: Translation of sinister for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sinister for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sinister

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