English

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Pronunciation

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Etymology 1

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From Middle English yvel, evel, ivel, uvel, from Old English yfel, from Proto-West Germanic *ubil, from Proto-Germanic *ubilaz[1] (compare Saterland Frisian eeuwel, Dutch euvel, Low German övel, German übel, Gothic 𐌿𐌱𐌹𐌻𐍃 (ubils, bad, evil)), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂up(h₁)élos, a deverbal derivative of *h₂wep(h₁)-, *h₂wop(h₁)- (treat badly). Compare Old Irish fel (bad, evil), from Proto-Celtic *uɸelos,[2] and Hittite 𒄷𒉿𒀊𒍣 (huwapp-i, to mistreat, harass), 𒄷𒉿𒀊𒉺𒀸 (huwappa-, evil, badness).[3] See -le for the supposed suffix.

Alternatively from *upélos (evil, literally going over or beyond (acceptable limits)), from Proto-Indo-European *upo, *h₃ewp- (down, up, over).[4]

Adjective

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evil (comparative eviller or eviler or more evil, superlative evillest or evilest or most evil)

  1. Intending to harm; malevolent.
    an evil plot to brainwash and even kill innocent people
    • 1864 August – 1866 January, [Elizabeth] Gaskell, chapter 47, in Wives and Daughters. An Every-day Story. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Smith, Elder and Co., [], published 1866, →OCLC:
      For a good while the Miss Brownings were kept in ignorance of the evil tongues that whispered hard words about Molly.
    • 1916, Zane Grey, chapter 10, in The Border Legion[2], New York: Harper & Bros., page 147:
      He looked at her shapely person with something of the brazen and evil glance that had been so revolting to her in the eyes of those ruffians.
    • 2006, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Wizard of the Crow, New York: Pantheon, Book Three, Section II, Chapter 3, p. 351,[3]
      “Before this, I never had any cause to suspect my wife of any conspiracy.”
      “You mean it never crossed your mind that she might have been told to whisper evil thoughts in your ear at night?”
    • 1989, Pilgrimage[4], volume 15, Human Sciences Press, →LCCN, →OCLC, page 7:
      He tells secret dreams to strangers , imagines he can achieve art without discipline , regards all boundaries as evil , ignores ancestors , wants comfort and merging , believes cunning is wrong , and as a scholar or artist doesn't []
  2. Morally corrupt.
    If something is evil, it is never mandatory.
    Do you think that companies that engage in animal testing are evil?
  3. Unpleasant, foul (of odour, taste, mood, weather, etc.).
    • 1660, John Harding (translator), Paracelsus his Archidoxis, London: W.S., Book 7, “Of an Odoriferous Specifick,” p. 100,[7]
      An Odoriferous Specifick [] is a Matter that takes away Diseases from the Sick, no otherwise then as Civet drives away the stinck of Ordure by its Odour; for you are to observe, That the Specifick doth permix it self with this evil Odour of the Dung; and the stink of the Dung cannot hurt, no[r] abide there []
    • 1897, H[erbert] G[eorge] Wells, chapter 18, in The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance, New York, N.Y., London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, →OCLC:
      He awoke in an evil temper []
    • 1937, Robert Byron, The Road to Oxiana, London: Macmillan, Part V, “Mazar-i-Sherif,” p. 282,[8]
      It was an evil day, sticky and leaden: Oxiana looked as colourless and suburban as India.
    • 1958, Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana[9], Penguin, published 1979, Part Four, Chapter 1, p. 125:
      He herded them into a small and evil toilet and then through a window.
    • 1993, Carol Shields, chapter 1, in The Stone Diaries[10], Toronto: Random House of Canada, page 39:
      Everyone in the tiny, crowded, hot, and evil-smelling kitchen [] has been invited to participate in a moment of history.
  4. Producing or threatening sorrow, distress, injury, or calamity; unpropitious; calamitous.
  5. (obsolete) Having harmful qualities; not good; worthless or deleterious.
    an evil beast; an evil plant; an evil crop
  6. (computing, programming, slang) Undesirable; harmful; bad practice.
    Global variables are evil; storing processing context in object member variables allows those objects to be reused in a much more flexible way.
Synonyms
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Antonyms
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Derived terms
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Translations
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Noun

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evil (countable and uncountable, plural evils)

  1. Moral badness; wickedness; malevolence; the forces or behaviors that are the opposite or enemy of good.
    The evils of society include murder and theft.
    Evil lacks spirituality, hence its need for mind control.
  2. Something which impairs the happiness of a being or deprives a being of any good; something which causes suffering of any kind to sentient beings; harm; injury; mischief.
  3. (obsolete) A malady or disease; especially in combination, as in king's evil, colt evil.
Antonyms
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Derived terms
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Translations
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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

References

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  1. ^ Kroonen, Guus (2013) “*ubila-”, in Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 11), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 557
  2. ^ Matasović, Ranko (2009) “*ufelo-”, in Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 9), Leiden: Brill, →ISBN, page 396
  3. ^ Kloekhorst, Alwin (2008) Etymological Dictionary of the Hittite Inherited Lexicon (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 5), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, pages 369–370
  4. ^ Orel, Vladimir (2003) “*uƀelaz”, in A Handbook of Germanic Etymology[1], Leiden: Brill, →ISBN, page 433

Etymology 2

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From Middle English yvel, evel, ivel, uvel, from Old English yfele (badly, evilly), a derivative of the adjective yfel (bad, evil). Often reinterpreted as the noun in the later language (as in "to speak evil").

Adverb

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evil (comparative more evil, superlative most evil)

  1. (obsolete) wickedly, evilly, iniquitously
  2. (obsolete) injuriously, harmfully; in a damaging way.
  3. (obsolete) badly, poorly; in an insufficient way.
    It went evil with him.
    • 1570, William Lambard, quoting Horace, A Perambulation of Kent[13], published 1596, page 341:
      But (as the Poet ſaith) Malè ſarta gratia, nequicquam coit, & reſcinditur: Friendſhip, that is but euill peeced, will not ioine cloſe, but falleth aſunder againe:
Usage notes
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This adverb was usually used in conjunction with speak.

References
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Anagrams

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Middle English

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Etymology 1

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Adjective

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evil

  1. Alternative form of yvel (evil)

Etymology 2

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Adverb

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evil

  1. Alternative form of yvel (evilly)