vi·​cious | \ˈvi-shəs \

Definition of vicious 

1a : dangerously aggressive : savage a vicious dog

b : marked by violence or ferocity : fierce a vicious fight

2 : malicious, spiteful vicious gossip

3 : worsened by internal causes that reciprocally augment each other a vicious wage-price spiral

4 : having the nature or quality of vice or immorality : depraved

5 : defective, faulty also : invalid

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Other Words from vicious

viciously adverb
viciousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for vicious

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

Examples of vicious in a Sentence

Challenging areas of social consensus, however dumb or even vicious the consensus, is largely off limits for the media, because it wins no friends among the general public. — Richard A. Posner, New York Times Book Review, 31 July 2005 The genetically vicious nature of presidential campaigns in America is too obvious to argue with, but some people call it fun, and I am one of them. — Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone, 11 Nov. 2004 True to Finals form, this hardwood battle has become as vicious as any street scrum. — Anne Marie Cruz, ESPN, 24 June 2002 For most of my life I have retained a haunting image from an old Tarzan movie: piranhas, those vicious little fish with the arrowhead-shaped teeth, devouring a pig. Forget that there are no piranha in Africa. But they do exist in Brazil, in abundance in the meandering waterways of the Amazon Basin. — Gerald Eskenazi, New York Times, 6 Oct. 2002 The Olympics always seemed too much like war, vicious old men manipulating youngsters hungry for fame into performing heroic acts for short change. — Robert Lipsyte, New York Times, 29 July 2001 His slider—a vicious, hard-breaking pitch with which he finished off right-handed hitters for years—was inconsistent and benign, and the velocity of his fastball was diminished. — Buster Olney, New York Times Magazine, 4 Mar. 2001 a vicious tone of voice I know you're upset with her, but there's no need to be vicious.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Don’t let the little red pigtails fool you, Wendy’s was among the most vicious after Monday’s less-than-sizzling announcement from the breakfast chain. David Selig,, "Wendy’s grills IHOb over new burger promotion — and there were plenty of other Twitter burns," 11 June 2018 One of the most vicious battles in naval history had begun. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, "How SF’s namesake ship survived a World War II ‘suicide’ mission," 9 June 2018 One of the tools that has helped me is knowing that even the most vicious panic attack can’t kill me. Nicole Spector /, NBC News, "What to do (and carry with you) to cope with a panic attack," 29 May 2018 Dominique subdued the plaintiff in a headlock, therefore preventing the plaintiff from breathing and allowing Sandy to continue his vicious attack. Jose Lambiet, miamiherald, "Court papers: Diddy paid $35,000 to photographer after bodyguards beat him | Miami Herald," 24 May 2018 Last weekend's assaults are the latest in a string of vicious attacks on girls and women in India. Amanda Erickson,, "Two teenage girls raped and set on fire in India," 7 May 2018 This was all in the first month of what has become one of the most vicious primaries for any party in any campaign in the 2018 election cycle. Amber Phillips, Washington Post, "From ‘unhinged’ to DUIs: How Indiana Republicans’ vicious Senate primary could haunt them in November," 2 May 2018 But a glut of tonnage in the water and vicious price wars have pushed freight rates well below break-even levels over the past few years, sinking most operators deeply into the red and pushing some out of business. Costas Paris, WSJ, "Japan Catches Up With Shipping Consolidation," 11 May 2018 In the Balkans, the competition with Russia has the potential to sow fresh instability in a region still emerging from the vicious war of 1992-95 that broke apart the former Yugoslavia. Steven Erlanger, New York Times, "In a New Cold War With Russia, Balkans Become a Testing Ground," 10 Apr. 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for vicious

Middle English, from Anglo-French vicios, from Latin vitiosus full of faults, corrupt, from vitium vice

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Statistics for vicious

Last Updated

3 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for vicious

The first known use of vicious was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for vicious



English Language Learners Definition of vicious

: very violent and cruel

: very dangerous

: having or showing very angry or cruel feelings


vi·​cious | \ˈvi-shəs \

Kids Definition of vicious

1 : very dangerous a vicious dog

2 : filled with or showing unkind feelings vicious gossip

3 : violent and cruel a vicious attack

4 : very severe a vicious storm

Other Words from vicious

viciously adverb
viciousness noun


vi·​cious | \ˈvish-əs \

Medical Definition of vicious 

1 : dangerously aggresive a vicious dog

2 : of, relating to, or being perverse or abnormal behavior in a domestic animal

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More from Merriam-Webster on vicious

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vicious

Spanish Central: Translation of vicious

Nglish: Translation of vicious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vicious for Arabic Speakers

Comments on vicious

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


to express warning or disapproval

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