ne·​far·​i·​ous | \ ni-ˈfer-ē-əs How to pronounce nefarious (audio) \

Definition of nefarious

: flagrantly wicked or impious : evil

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Other Words from nefarious

nefariously adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for nefarious

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

What Is the Difference Between vicious, villainous, and nefarious?

Vicious and villainous are two wicked synonyms of nefarious, and, like nefarious, both mean "highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct." But these synonyms are not used in exactly the same way in all situations. Vicious may imply moral depravity or it may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence. Villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic, while nefarious (which derives from the Latin noun nefas, meaning "crime") suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct.

Examples of nefarious in a Sentence

Moreover, those starry-eyed states inclined to perceive international relations in moral terms frequently underestimate the nefarious machinations of their competitors on the world political stage. — Richard Wolin, New Republic, 4 June 2001 … I always give the same response: Just because Frank posed for pictures with every leading capo, underboss and cement contractor of the day doesn't mean that he joined them in their nefarious underworld activities. Oh, occasionally he rode along on a hit or two, but that was just one of those social obligations … — Lewis Grossberger, Time, 21 Dec. 1998 Three-tenths of a mile uphill from our mailbox on the road, that bend is so nefarious that neophytes often skidded into a snowbank or wound up fender-deep in mud there. — Maxine Kumin, In Deep, 1987 a nefarious scheme to cheat people out of their money the chaste heroines and nefarious villains of old-time melodramas
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Recent Examples on the Web That begins with Washington’s title character getting into a terrible car accident in Greece, not only losing his girlfriend, but in the process stumbling upon a nefarious plot that has armed people chasing him. Brian Lowry, CNN, 14 Aug. 2021 In it, a group of orphans must foil a nefarious plot with global ramifications while creating a new family along the way. Los Angeles Times, 23 July 2021 The supernatural series about young witches who band together to battle witch-hunters and other nefarious forces. oregonlive, 20 June 2021 But they were instituted to accomplish a goal, not because of some nefarious plot by Big Business. Bill Cassidy And Jeff Hoopes, WSJ, 8 June 2021 Now, to be clear, this doesn't require a nefarious plot. Mark Dohnalek, Forbes, 18 Mar. 2021 Along the way, the pair tussle with the (literal) blood-red rage burning in the villainous eyes of Bobby Cannavale as The King, the mastermind behind the nefarious plot, as well as coming to grips with their new status as iconic crusaders. Joey Nolfi,, 3 Mar. 2021 Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office has so far moved against 10 businesses for reopening in defiance of Walz's order, said the state isn't conducting some nefarious plot to roll back civil liberties. James Walsh, Star Tribune, 22 Dec. 2020 Much attention has been placed on the potential for using deepfakes for nefarious purposes, and for good reason. Rachel Metz, CNN, 6 Aug. 2021

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

circa 1609, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nefarious

Latin nefarius, from nefas crime, from ne- not + fas right, divine law; perhaps akin to Greek themis law, tithenai to place — more at do

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The first known use of nefarious was circa 1609

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Last Updated

3 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nefarious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of nefarious

: evil or immoral

More from Merriam-Webster on nefarious

Nglish: Translation of nefarious for Spanish Speakers


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