adjective vi·cious \ ˈvi-shəs \
|Updated on: 8 Aug 2018

Definition of vicious

1 a : 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





Examples of vicious in a Sentence

  1. 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. PosnerNew York Times Book Review31 July 2005
  2. 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. ThompsonRolling Stone11 Nov. 2004
  3. True to Finals form, this hardwood battle has become as vicious as any street scrum. —Anne Marie CruzESPN24 June 2002
  4. 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 EskenaziNew York Times6 Oct. 2002
  5. The Olympics always seemed too much like war, vicious old men manipulating youngsters hungry for fame into performing heroic acts for short change. —Robert LipsyteNew York Times29 July 2001
  6. 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 OlneyNew York Times Magazine4 Mar. 2001
  7. a vicious tone of voice

  8. I know you're upset with her, but there's no need to be vicious.

Recent Examples of vicious from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of vicious

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

vicious Synonyms

Synonym Discussion of 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

VICIOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of vicious for English Language Learners

  • : very violent and cruel

  • : very dangerous

  • : having or showing very angry or cruel feelings

VICIOUS Defined for Kids


adjective vi·cious \ ˈvi-shəs \

Definition of vicious for Students

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





Medical Dictionary


adjective 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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very hard to disturb or upset

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