Meaning of “evil” in the English Dictionary

"evil" in British English

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uk /ˈiː.vəl/ us /ˈiː.vəl/

B2 morally bad, cruel, or very unpleasant:

an evil dictator
These people are just evil.

If the weather or a smell is evil, it is very unpleasant.

More examples

  • The film was about an evil genius who wanted to control the world.
  • She was given a magic charm to ward off evil spirits.
  • I don't believe that human beings are innately evil.
  • This evil, cold-hearted killer confessed that he often drugged his victims before he killed them.
  • In the 'Harry Potter' films, does the evil wizard, Voldemort, ever actually appear?


evilnoun [ C or U ]

uk /ˈiː.vəl/ us /ˈiː.vəl/

B2 something that is very bad and harmful:

Each new leader would blame his predecessor for all the evils of the past.
Drug addiction is one of today's great social evils.
For the sake of long-term peace, the military option is the lesser evil/the lesser of two evils (= the less unpleasant of two bad choices).
the battle between good and evil

More examples

  • Poverty and ignorance, the bishop said, were the forces of evil in our society today.
  • Frank subscribed firmly to the belief that human kindness would overcome evil.
  • She was portrayed in the papers as the embodiment of evil.
  • You should never meddle with the powers of evil.
  • His new book is a gruesome tale of evil, deceit and murder.

(Definition of “evil” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"evil" in American English

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evilnoun [ C/U ]

us /ˈi·vəl/

the condition of being immoral, cruel, or bad, or an act of this type:

[ U ] a contest between good and evil
adjective us /ˈi·vəl/

an evil ruler

(Definition of “evil” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)