vil·​lain·​ous ˈvi-lə-nəs How to pronounce villainous (audio)
: befitting a villain (as in evil or depraved character)
a villainous attack
: being or having the character of a villain : depraved
the villainous foe
: highly objectionable : wretched
villainously adverb
villainousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for villainous

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 villainous in a Sentence

villainous behavior that made him one of the most notorious figures in history and gave rise to the legend of Dracula
Recent Examples on the Web While earlier others depicted Magneto as purely villainous, Claremont’s run explored Magneto’s emotional motivations as a Holocaust survivor and put Magneto on trial for his crimes against the world, leading to a turn to heroism. Herb Scribner, Washington Post, 4 Apr. 2024 Thusly inspired and trained, Kid goes on a righteous rampage and literally fights his way to the top floor of the villainous big boss. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 4 Apr. 2024 The series' first movie, released in 2021, leaves Chalamet's character Paul after his family is massacred by the villainous Harkonnen family. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 6 Mar. 2024 Though the final season of the flagship series lacked a strong villainous hook, its penultimate year was haunted by Samantha Morton’s terrifying Alpha, queen of the Whisperers, and the woman who brought the AMC zombie drama back to form under the brilliant leadership of showrunner Angela Kang. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Mar. 2024 That’s especially true of Booth, through no fault of Boyle’s, who as written possesses less depth than his flamboyantly villainous mustache. Brian Lowry, CNN, 15 Mar. 2024 The Justice Leaguer teams with his previously villainous half-bro (Patrick Wilson) to fight an ancient evil. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 15 Mar. 2024 Justifications for these tactics, as well as less villainous ones, varied. John Washington, Harper's Magazine, 26 Feb. 2024 Sports Plaschke: Super Bowl LVIII: Wrong-way Plaschke picks lovable 49ers over villainous Chiefs Feb. 9, 2024 Tunney officiated during the era of streaking, too, and saw his share of people weaving through security guards while unencumbered by clothing. Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times, 9 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'villainous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of villainous was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near villainous

Cite this Entry

“Villainous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


vil·​lain·​ous ˈvil-ə-nəs How to pronounce villainous (audio)
: typical of a villain
villainous attacks
also : wicked
a villainous enemy
: very objectionable
villainous living conditions
villainously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on villainous

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