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definitions - evil

evil (adj.)

1.having or exerting a malignant influence"malevolent stars" "a malefic force"

2.morally bad or wrong"evil purposes" "an evil influence" "evil deeds"

3.having the nature of vice

evil (n.)

1.morally objectionable behavior

2.the quality of being morally wrong in principle or practice"attempts to explain the origin of evil in the world"

3.that which causes harm or destruction or misfortune"the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones" - Shakespeare

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Merriam Webster

EvilE*vil (ē"v'l) a. [OE. evel, evil, ifel, uvel, AS. yfel; akin to OFries, evel, D. euvel, OS. & OHG. ubil, G. übel, Goth. ubils, and perh. to E. over.]
1. Having qualities tending to injury and mischief; having a nature or properties which tend to badness; mischievous; not good; worthless or deleterious; poor; as, an evil beast; and evil plant; an evil crop.

A good tree can not bring forth evil fruit. Matt. vii. 18.

2. Having or exhibiting bad moral qualities; morally corrupt; wicked; wrong; vicious; as, evil conduct, thoughts, heart, words, and the like.

Ah, what a sign it is of evil life,
When death's approach is seen so terrible.

3. Producing or threatening sorrow, distress, injury, or calamity; unpropitious; calamitous; as, evil tidings; evil arrows; evil days.

Because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel. Deut. xxii. 19.

The owl shrieked at thy birth -- an evil sign. Shak.

Evil news rides post, while good news baits. Milton.

Evil eye, an eye which inflicts injury by some magical or fascinating influence. It is still believed by the ignorant and superstitious that some persons have the supernatural power of injuring by a look.
It almost led him to believe in the evil eye. J. H. Newman.-- Evil speaking, speaking ill of others; calumny; censoriousness. -- The evil one, the Devil; Satan.

Evil is sometimes written as the first part of a compound (with or without a hyphen). In many cases the compounding need not be insisted on. Examples: Evil doer or evildoer, evil speaking or evil-speaking, evil worker, evil wishing, evil-hearted, evil-minded.

Syn. -- Mischieveous; pernicious; injurious; hurtful; destructive; wicked; sinful; bad; corrupt; perverse; wrong; vicious; calamitous.

EvilE"vil (ē"v'l) n.
1. Anything which impairs the happiness of a being or deprives a being of any good; anything which causes suffering of any kind to sentient beings; injury; mischief; harm; -- opposed to good.

Evils which our own misdeeds have wrought. Milton.

The evil that men do lives after them. Shak.

2. Moral badness, or the deviation of a moral being from the principles of virtue imposed by conscience, or by the will of the Supreme Being, or by the principles of a lawful human authority; disposition to do wrong; moral offence; wickedness; depravity.

The heart of the sons of men is full of evil. Eccl. ix. 3.

3. malady or disease; especially in the phrase king's evil, the scrofula. [R.] Shak.

He [Edward the Confessor] was the first that touched for the evil. Addison.

EvilE"vil, adv. In an evil manner; not well; ill; badly; unhappily; injuriously; unkindly. Shak.

It went evil with his house. 1 Chron. vii. 23.

The Egyptians evil entreated us, and affected us. Deut. xxvi. 6.

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definition (more)

definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - evil

see also - evil

evil (adj.)

evilly, wickedly good

evil (n.)

good, goodness


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analogical dictionary

bad, badness[Hyper.]

evil (n.)




Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code.[citation needed] Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary, as does the analysis of its root motives and causes; however, evil is commonly associated with conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological well-being and dignity, destructiveness, motives of causing pain or suffering for selfish or malicious intentions, and acts of unnecessary or indiscriminate violence.[1] The philosophical question of whether morality is absolute or relative leads to questions about the nature of evil, with views falling into one of four opposed camps: moral absolutism, amoralism, moral relativism, and moral universalism.

While the term is applied to events and conditions without agency, the forms of evil addressed in this article presume an evildoer or doers.



The modern English word "evil" (Old English yfel) and its cognates such as the German Übel and Dutch euvel are widely considered to come from a Proto-Germanic reconstructed form of *ubilaz, comparable to the Hittite huwapp- ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European form *wap- and suffixed zero-grade form *up-elo-. Other later Germanic forms include Middle English evel, ifel, ufel, Old Frisian evel (adjective and noun), Old Saxon ubil, Old High German ubil, and evil Gothic ubils.

The root meaning of the word is of obscure origin though shown[2] to be akin to modern German Das Übel (although 'Evil' is normally translated as 'Das Böse') with the basic idea of transgressing.[3]

  Chinese moral philosophy

Main: Confucian Ethics, Confucianism and Taoist Ethics

As with Buddhism below, in Confucianism or Taoism, there is no direct analogue to the way "good and evil" are opposed although reference to "demonic influence" is common in Chinese folk religion. Confucianism 's primary concern is with correct social relationships and the behavior appropriate to the learned or superior man. Thus "evil" would correspond to wrong behavior. Still less does it map into Taoism, in spite of the centrality of dualism in that system, but the opposite of the cardinal virtues of Taoism, compassion, moderation, and humility can be inferred to be the analogue of evil in it.[4][5]

  Western philosophy


Friedrich Nietzsche, in a rejection of the Judeo-Christian morality, addresses this in two works Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morals where he essentially says that the natural functional non-good has been socially transformed into the religious concept of evil by the slave mentality of the weak and oppressed masses who resent their masters (the strong).


Benedict de Spinoza states

1. By good, I understand that which we certainly know is useful to us.
2. By evil, on the contrary I understand that which we certainly know hinders us from possessing anything that is good.[6]

Spinoza assumes a quasi-mathematical style and states these further propositions which he purports to prove or demonstrate from the above definitions in part IV of his Ethics [6]:

  • Proposition 8 Knowledge of good or evil is nothing but affect of joy or sorrow in so far as we are conscious of it.
  • Proposition 30 Nothing can be evil through that which it possesses in common with our nature, but in so far as a thing is evil to us it is contrary to us.
  • Proposition 64 The knowledge of evil is inadequate knowledge.
    • Corollary Hence it follows that if the human mind had none but adequate ideas, it would form no notion of evil.
  • Proposition 65 According to the guidance of reason, of two things which are good, we shall follow the greater good, and of two evils, follow the less.
  • Proposition 68 If men were born free, they would form no conception of good and evil so long as they were free.

The philosophical notion such as those of Nietzsche, Rand, and Spinoza above can be compared and contrasted with the theological notion below, but it should be noted that Rand and Nietzsche were both atheists, Spinoza was not.


  Carl Jung

Carl Jung, in his book Answer to Job and elsewhere, depicted evil as the "dark side of the Devil". People tend to believe evil is something external to them, because they project their shadow onto others. Jung interpreted the story of Jesus as an account of God facing his own shadow.[7]


In 2007, Philip Zimbardo suggested that people may act in evil ways as a result of a collective identity. This hypothesis, based on his previous experience from the Stanford prison experiment, was published in the book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.[8]



Main: Buddhist Ethics
  Extermination of Evil, The God of Heavenly Punishment, from the Chinese tradition of yin and yang. Late Heian period (12th Century Japan)

The primal duality in Buddhism is between suffering and enlightenment, so the good vs. evil splitting has no direct analogue in it. One may infer however from the general teachings of the Buddha that the catalogued causes of suffering are what correspond in this belief system to "evil".[9][10]

Practically this can refer to 1) the three selfish emotions—desire, hate and delusion; and 2) to their expression in physical and verbal actions. See "ten unvirtuous actions in Buddhism". Specifically, "evil" means whatever harms or obstructs the causes for happiness in this life, a better rebirth, liberation from samsara, and the true and complete enlightenment of a buddha (samyaksambodhi). Ignorance is defined as the root of all evil.[11][ungrammatical/illogical]


In Hinduism the concept of Dharma or righteousness clearly divides the world into good and evil, and clearly explains that wars have to be waged sometimes to establish and protect Dharma, this war is called Dharmayuddha. This division of good and evil is of major importance in both the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.


There is no concept of absolute evil in Islam, as a fundamental universal principle that is independent from and equal with good in a dualistic sense. Within Islam, it is considered essential to believe that all comes from Allah, whether it is perceived as good or bad by individuals; and that what the things that are perceived as "evil" or "bad" are either natural events(natural disasters or illnesses) or caused by humanity's free will to disobey Allah's orders. See however Iblis.

  Judeo-Christian thought

Evil is that which is not good. The Bible defines evil as the condition of being alone (the "not good" of Genesis 2:18). In this sense, evil may be seen as that which goes against, or is outside of society, both in terms of values and actions.

  The Devil, the personification of evil, tempts Christ, the personification of good. Ary Scheffer, 1854.

Some authors, such as Christian apologist William Lane Craig,[citation needed] have divided evil into moral evil, or harms perpetrated by some agent; and natural evil, harms resulting from natural disasters, disease, or other agentless causes. Natural evil has particular import to theodicy, as it cannot be simply explained as the result of an agent's free will.


Christian theology draws its concept of evil from the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, evil is understood to be an opposition to God as well as something unsuitable or inferior such as the leader of the Fallen Angels Satan [12] In the New Testament the Greek word poneros is used to indicate unsuitability, while kakos is used to refer to opposition to God in the human realm.[13] Officially, the Catholic Church extracts its understanding of evil from the Dominican theologian, Thomas Aquinas, who in SUMMA THEOLOGICA defines evil as the absence or privation of good.[14]French-American theologian Henri Blocher describes evil, when viewed as a theological concept, as an "unjustifiable reality. In common parlance, evil is 'something' that occurs in experience that ought not to be."[15]


In Judaism, evil is the result of forsaking God. (Deuteronomy 28:20) Judaism stresses obedience to God's laws as written in the Torah (see also Tanakh) and the laws and rituals laid down in the Mishnah and the Talmud.

Some forms of Judaism do not personify evil in Satan; these instead consider the human heart to be inherently bent toward deceit, although human beings are responsible for their choices. In other forms of Judaism, there is no prejudice in one's becoming good or evil at time of birth. In Judaism, Satan is viewed as one who tests us for God rather than one who works against God, and evil, as in the Christian denominations above, is a matter of choice.

The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the LORD who does all these.

Isaiah 45:7

Some cultures or philosophies believe that evil can arise without meaning or reason (in neoplatonic philosophy, this is called absurd evil). Christianity in general does not adhere to this belief, but the prophet Isaiah implied that God is ultimately responsible for everything. (Isa.45:7).[dubious ]


In Mormonism, mortal life is viewed as a test of faith, where one's choices are central to the Plan of Salvation. See Agency (LDS Church). Evil is that which keeps one from discovering the nature of God. It is believed that one must choose not to be evil to return to God.

Christian Science believes that evil arises from a misunderstanding of the goodness of nature, which is understood as being inherently perfect if viewed from the correct (spiritual) perspective. Misunderstanding God's reality leads to incorrect choices, which are termed evil. This has led to the rejection of any separate power being the source of evil, or of God as being the source of evil; instead, the appearance of evil is the result of a mistaken concept of good. Christian Scientists argue that even the most "evil" person does not pursue evil for its own sake, but from the mistaken viewpoint that he or she will achieve some kind of good thereby.


In the originally Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, the world is a battle ground between the god Ahura Mazda (also called Ormazd) and the malignant spirit Angra Mainyu (also called Ahriman). The final resolution of the struggle between good and evil was supposed to occur on a day of Judgement, in which all beings that have lived will be led across a bridge of fire, and those who are evil will be cast down forever. In Iranian belief, angels and saints are beings sent to help us achieve the path towards goodness.

  Philosophical questions about evil

  Is evil universal?

A fundamental question is whether there is a universal, transcendent definition of evil, or whether evil is determined by one's social or cultural background.[citation needed] C. S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man, maintained that there are certain acts that are universally considered evil, such as rape and murder. However the numerous instances in which rape or murder is morally affected by social context call this into question. One might argue, nevertheless, that the definition of the word rape necessitates that any action described by the word is evil, since the concept refers to causing sexual harm to another. Up until the mid-19th century, the United States — along with many other countries — practiced forms of slavery. As is often the case, those transgressing moral boundaries stood to profit from that exercise. Arguably, slavery has always been the same and objectively evil, but men with a motivation to transgress will justify that action.

  Adolf Hitler is often used as a personification of evil.[16]

The Nazis, during World War II, found genocide acceptable,[17] as did the Hutu Interhamwe in the Rwandan genocide.[18][19] One might point out, though, that the actual perpetrators of those atrocities probably avoided calling their actions genocide, since the objective meaning of any act accurately described by that word is to wrongfully kill a selected group of people, which is an action that at least the victimized party will understand to be evil. Universalists consider evil independent of culture, and wholly related to acts or intents. Thus, while the ideological leaders of Nazism and the Hutu Interhamwe accepted (and considered it moral) to commit genocide, the belief in genocide as "fundamentally" or "universally" evil holds that those who instigated this genocide are actually evil.[improper synthesis?] Other universalists might argue that although the commission of an evil act is always evil, those who perpetrate may not be wholly evil or wholly good entities. To say that someone who has stolen a candy bar, for instance, becomes wholly evil is a rather untenable position. However, universalists might also argue that a person can choose a decidedly evil or a decidedly good life career, and genocidal dictatorship plainly falls on the side of the former.

Views on the nature of evil tend to fall into one of four opposed camps:

  • Moral absolutism holds that good and evil are fixed concepts established by a deity or deities, nature, morality, common sense, or some other source.[20]
  • Amoralism claims that good and evil are meaningless, that there is no moral ingredient in nature.
  • Moral relativism holds that standards of good and evil are only products of local culture, custom, or prejudice.
  • Moral universalism is the attempt to find a compromise between the absolutist sense of morality, and the relativist view; universalism claims that morality is only flexible to a degree, and that what is truly good or evil can be determined by examining what is commonly considered to be evil amongst all humans.

Plato wrote that there are relatively few ways to do good, but there are countless ways to do evil, which can therefore have a much greater impact on our lives, and the lives of other beings capable of suffering. For this reason, philosophers such as Bernard Gert maintain that preventing evil is more important than promoting good in formulating moral rules and in conduct.[citation needed]

  Is evil a useful term?

There is a school of thought that holds that no person is evil, that only acts may be properly considered evil. Psychologist and mediator Marshall Rosenberg claims that the root of violence is the very concept of "evil" or "badness." When we label someone as bad or evil, Rosenberg claims, it invokes the desire to punish or inflict pain. It also makes it easy for us to turn off our feelings towards the person we are harming. He cites the use of language in Nazi Germany as being a key to how the German people were able to do things to other human beings that they normally would not do. He links the concept of evil to our judicial system, which seeks to create justice via punishment — "punitive justice" — punishing acts that are seen as bad or wrong. He contrasts this approach with what he found in cultures where the idea of evil was non-existent. In such cultures, when someone harms another person, they are believed to be out of harmony with themselves and their community, are seen as sick or ill and measures are taken to restore them to a sense of harmonious relations with themselves and others.

Psychologist Albert Ellis makes a similar claim, in his school of psychology called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, or REBT. He says the root of anger, and the desire to harm someone, is almost always related to variations of implicit or explicit philosophical beliefs about other human beings. He further claims that without holding variants of those covert or overt belief and assumptions, the tendency to resort to violence in most cases is less likely.

Prominent American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck on the other hand, describes evil as "militant ignorance".[21] The original Judeo-Christian concept of "sin" is as a process that leads us to "miss the mark" and fall short of perfection. Peck argues that while most people are conscious of this at least on some level, those that are evil actively and militantly refuse this consciousness. Peck characterizes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness which results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims (often children or other people in relatively powerless positions). Peck considers those he calls evil to be attempting to escape and hide from their own conscience (through self deception) and views this as being quite distinct from the apparent absence of conscience evident in sociopaths.

According to Peck, an evil person:[21][22]

  • Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection
  • Deceives others as a consequence of their own self-deception
  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets, scapegoating others while appearing normal with everyone else ("their insensitivity toward him was selective") [23]
  • Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others
  • Abuses political (emotional) power ("the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion") [24]
  • Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

He also considers certain institutions may be evil, as his discussion of the My Lai Massacre and its attempted coverup illustrate. By this definition, acts of criminal and state terrorism would also be considered evil.

  Is evil necessary?

Martin Luther allowed that there are cases where a little evil is a positive good. He wrote, "Seek out the society of your boon companions, drink, play, talk bawdy, and amuse yourself. One must sometimes commit a sin out of hate and contempt for the Devil, so as not to give him the chance to make one scrupulous over mere nothings... ."[25]

In certain schools of political philosophy, leaders are encouraged to be indifferent to good or evil, taking actions based solely on practicality; this approach to politics was put forth by Niccolò Machiavelli, a 16th-century Florentine writer who advised politicians "...it is far safer to be feared than loved."[26]

The international relations theories of realism and neorealism, sometimes called realpolitik advise politicians to explicitly disavow absolute moral and ethical considerations in international politics in favor of a focus on self-interest, political survival, and power politics, which they hold to be more accurate in explaining a world they view as explicitly amoral and dangerous. Political realists usually justify their perspectives by laying claim to a "higher moral duty" specific to political leaders, under which the greatest evil is seen to be the failure of the state to protect itself and its citizens. Machiavelli wrote: "...there will be traits considered good that, if followed, will lead to ruin, while other traits, considered vices which if practiced achieve security and well being for the Prince."[26]

  See also

  Further reading


  1. ^ Ervin Staub. Overcoming evil: genocide, violent conflict, and terrorism. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press, Pp. 32.
  2. ^ See 'Evil' entry in OED
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas (2001). "Etymology for evil". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=evil 
  4. ^ Good and Evil in Chinese Philosophy C.W. Chan
  5. ^ History of Chinese Philosophy Feng Youlan, Volume II The Period of Classical Learning (from the Second Century B.C. to the Twentieth Century A.D). Trans. Derk Bodde. Ch. XIV Liu Chiu-Yuan, Wang Shou-jen, and Ming Idealism. part 6 § 6 Origin of Evil. Uses strikingly similar language to that in the etymology section of this article, in the context of Chinese Idealism.
  6. ^ a b Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, Part IV Of Human Bondage or of the Strength of the Affects Definitions translated by W. H. White, Revised by A. H. Stirling, Great Books vol 31, Encyclopædia Britannica 1952 p. 424
  7. ^ Stephen Palmquist, Dreams of Wholeness: A course of introductory lectures on religion, psychology and personal growth (Hong Kong: Philopsychy Press, 1997/2008), see especially Chapter XI.
  8. ^ Book website
  9. ^ Philosophy of Religion Charles Taliaferro, Paul J. Griffiths, eds. Ch. 35, Buddhism and Evil Martin Southwold p 424
  10. ^ Lay Outreach and the Meaning of “Evil Person Taitetsu Unno
  11. ^ The Jewel Ornament of Liberation. Gampopa. ISBN 978-1559390927[page needed]
  12. ^ Hans Schwarz, Evil: A Historical and Theological Perspective (Lima, Ohio: Academic Renewal Press, 2001): 42–43.
  13. ^ Schwarz, Evil, 75.
  14. ^ Thomas Aquinas, SUMMA THEOLOGICA, translated by the Fathers of the English Dominician Province (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947) Volume 3, q. 72, a. 1, p. 902.
  15. ^ Henri Blocher, Evil and the Cross (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994): 10.
  16. ^ Sanburn, Josh (February 4, 2011). "Top 25 Political Icons - Adolf Hitler". Time. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2046285_2045996_2045995,00.html. Retrieved August 27, 2011. 
  17. ^ Gaymon Bennett, Ted Peters, Martinez J. Hewlett, Robert John Russell (2008). "The evolution of evil". Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p.318. ISBN 3-525-56979-3
  18. ^ Gourevitch, Phillip (1999). We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With our Families. Picador. ISBN 0-312-24335-9. 
  19. ^ "Frontline: the triumph of evil. url=http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/evil/". 
  20. ^ url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a6.htm
  21. ^ a b Peck, M. Scott. (1983;1988). People of the Lie: The hope for healing human evil. Century Hutchinson.
  22. ^ Peck, M. Scott. (1978;1992), The Road Less Travelled. Arrow.
  23. ^ Peck, 1983/1988,p105
  24. ^ Peck,1978/1992,p298
  25. ^ Martin Luther, Werke, XX, p58
  26. ^ a b Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Dante University of America Press, 2003, ISBN 0-937832-38-3 ISBN 978-0-937832-38-7

  External links



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Lettris is a curious tetris-clone game where all the bricks have the same square shape but different content. Each square carries a letter. To make squares disappear and save space for other squares you have to assemble English words (left, right, up, down) from the falling squares.


Boggle gives you 3 minutes to find as many words (3 letters or more) as you can in a grid of 16 letters. You can also try the grid of 16 letters. Letters must be adjacent and longer words score better. See if you can get into the grid Hall of Fame !

English dictionary
Main references

Most English definitions are provided by WordNet .
English thesaurus is mainly derived from The Integral Dictionary (TID).
English Encyclopedia is licensed by Wikipedia (GNU).


The wordgames anagrams, crossword, Lettris and Boggle are provided by Memodata.
The web service Alexandria is granted from Memodata for the Ebay search.
The SensagentBox are offered by sensAgent.


Change the target language to find translations.
Tips: browse the semantic fields (see From ideas to words) in two languages to learn more.

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