be·​nev·​o·​lent | \ bə-ˈnev-lənt How to pronounce benevolent (audio) , -ˈne-və- \

Essential Meaning of benevolent

1 : kind and generous a benevolent company/government a gift from a benevolent donor
2 : organized to do good things for other people He belonged to several benevolent societies and charitable organizations.

Full Definition of benevolent

1a : marked by or disposed to doing good a benevolent donor
b : organized for the purpose of doing good a benevolent society
2 : marked by or suggestive of goodwill benevolent smiles

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Other Words from benevolent

benevolently adverb
benevolentness noun

Benevolent Has a Good History

Someone who is "benevolent" genuinely wishes other people well, which is not surprising if you know the word's history. "Benevolent" can be traced back to Latin bene, meaning "good," and velle, meaning "to wish." Other descendants of "velle" in English include "volition" ("the act or power of making one's choices or decisions"), "voluntary," and the rare word velleity (meaning either "the lowest degree of volition" or "a slight wish or tendency"). There is also one more familiar "velle" descendant - "malevolent," the antonym of "benevolent," a word describing one who is disposed to doing ill instead of good.

Examples of benevolent in a Sentence

Trees that size are like whales, sort of benevolent in their huge bulk … — Sebastian Junger, This Old House, March/April 1998 Grandfather sometimes turned on us like a rigged trap, and of course the benevolent gaze of the sage became the glare of the patriarch. — Darryl Pinckney, High Cotton, 1992 A Southern writer is allowed his eccentricities. The prevailing attitude is a kind of benevolent neglect. — Walker Percy, "Why I Live Where I Live," 1980, in Signposts in a Strange Land1991 They tore out the windows of the club's simple storefront and bricked them over and left two much smaller windows … so that the look of the club changed from that of a benevolent neighborhood organization to that of a paramilitary one. — "The Talk of the Town," New Yorker26 Feb. 1990 a gift from a benevolent donor He belonged to several benevolent societies and charitable organizations.
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Recent Examples on the Web Ayoade will play his son, Tyrannis, who is the benevolent king of Krapopolis, because of course. Anne Victoria Clark, Vulture, 8 Sep. 2021 With no stakes to speak of, the movie's only saving grace is the charismatic Billy Porter, who flies in to sing Earth, Wind & Fire as Ella's brassy and benevolent Fabulous Godmother. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, 28 Sep. 2021 The effort will be funded with an initial benevolent contribution of $25 million from the Mastercard Impact Fund. Bill Hardekopf, Forbes, 24 Sep. 2021 The owner of the station, for example, may be the most benevolent and least confrontational Trump supporter in America., 5 Aug. 2021 Police agencies want job ads to make the position look benevolent and community-oriented, explains Dallas Thompson, an account director with Sensis. Sidney Fussell, Wired, 4 Aug. 2021 There are those who hunt the mythical beings to use their ancestral powers for warfare, while others, seemingly more benevolent, wish to put them on display at a theme park under the pretense of safety. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 20 Aug. 2021 Lately, the militant group has sought to present a more benevolent image. al, 17 Aug. 2021 The government and the oil companies were seen as almost synonymous — sometimes benevolent, sometimes malevolent — doling out crumbs of the national cake, or not. New York Times, 25 July 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for benevolent

Middle English, from Latin benevolent-, benevolens, from bene + volent-, volens, present participle of velle to wish — more at will

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

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Benevolent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for benevolent


be·​nev·​o·​lent | \ bə-ˈne-və-lənt How to pronounce benevolent (audio) \

Kids Definition of benevolent

1 : having a desire to do good : kindly a benevolent organization
2 : marked by or suggestive of a kindly feeling a benevolent face

Other Words from benevolent

benevolently adverb smiled benevolently

More from Merriam-Webster on benevolent

Nglish: Translation of benevolent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of benevolent for Arabic Speakers


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