Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Infamous by way of being extremely wicked.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Wicked in the extreme; heinous; abominable; atrociously sinful or villainous; detestably vile.
  • Synonyms Nefarious, Execrable, Flagitious, Enormous, Villainous, Abominable, Horrible, atrocious, infamous, iniquitous, impious, dreadful, detestable. The first seven words characterize extreme wickedness. As with the words under atrocious, when loosely used they approach each other in meaning; hence only their primary meanings will be indicated here: nefarious, unspeakably wicked, impious; execrable, worthy of execration or cursing, utterly hateful; flagitious, proceeding from burning desire (as lust), grossly or brutally wicked or vile, enormous, not common in this sense except with a strong noun, as enormous wickedness, but sometimes meaning wicked beyond common measure; villainous, worthy of a villain, greatly criminal or capable of great crimes; abominable, loathsome in wickedness, the object of a religious detestation; horrible, exciting horror, mental agitation, or shrinking; shocking: it is less common as applied to moral conduct, See abandoned, atrocious, criminal, and irreligious.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Wicked in the extreme; abominable; iniquitous; atrociously villainous; execrable; detestably vile.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective infamous for being wicked
  • adjective wicked or criminal

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective extremely wicked

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin nefārius, from nefās, crime, transgression : ne-, not; see ne in Indo-European roots + fās, divine law; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin nefārius ("execrable, abominable"), from nefas ("something contrary to divine law, an impious deed, sin, crime"), from ne- ("not") + fas ("the dictates of religion, divine law"), related to for ("I speak, I say"), and cognate to φημί (phemi, "I say").

Examples

  • In a written statement, President Jonathan said the group, basking in what he called their nefarious success in Jos on Christmas Eve, once again knifed at the heartstrings of a nation celebrating New Year's Eve with this evil and wicked attack.

    4 Killed in Blast in Nigerian Capital

  • In a written statement, President Jonathan said the group, basking in what he called their nefarious success in Jos on Christmas Eve, once again knifed at the heartstrings of a nation celebrating New Year's Eve with this evil and wicked attack.

    4 Killed in Blast in Nigerian Capital

  • This is what we call the nefarious voting tendency called, "In Hop Step".

    Fineman: McCain Wouldn't Approve Of His Own Campaign's Message

  • MCINTYRE: Gates had already withstood a flurry of broadsides from committee chairman and ardent war critic Robert Byrd, who railed against the cost of what he called the nefarious infernal war in Iraq.

    CNN Transcript Sep 26, 2007

  • MCINTYRE: Gates had already withstood a flurry of broadsides from committee chairman and ardent war critic Robert Byrd, who railed against the cost of what he called the nefarious infernal war in Iraq.

    CNN Transcript Sep 29, 2007

  • An official that these sources say has been involved in what they call nefarious activities against the United States.

    CNN Transcript May 21, 2004

  • A little further down you used the word nefarious, which is one of my favorite words, but I might not have used it in a story on the radio.

    Marketplace

  • A little further down you used the word nefarious, which is one of my favorite words, but I might not have used it in a story on the radio.

    Marketplace

  • Mayor Rudy Giuliani held a press conference exposing what he characterized as a nefarious cult - hoopla that ended with a whimper as the Village Voice, The New York Times, Newsday, and other papers reported that NatlFed seemed to have never actually done anything.

    FACTnet

  • University scientists who have signed petitions demanding that BPA be banned insist nothing nefarious is going on here, it just happens that the studies that don't find problems administer BPA the way humans take it and those that find problems involve injecting rats, and I believe them.

    Jon Entine: With the European Union and a Slew of New Studies Reaffirming the Safety of BPA, At What Point Will the Science Prevail?

Comments

New comments are temporarily disabled while we update our database.

  • So delightfully melodramatic...

    December 22, 2008

  • I want a screen name with this word!

    November 5, 2009

  • A definition does no good if it uses a very near synonym in the definition. For example, we define 'nefarious' as infamous by way of being extremely wicked. The words 'nefarious' and 'infamous' are very nearly the same in meaning; so if anyone is deeply confused or curious about nefarious, then he or she is of course going to be confused or curious about the 'infamous'. The question is what general characteristics are possessed by all things nefarious. It's one of the fallacies of definition

    February 20, 2010

  • Nefarious was a Burmese dictator who lived at the bottom of the garden.

    February 20, 2010

  • When I was about 12 my father, I think out of pure jest, told me this word was pronounced "nef-a-rus", i.e. with three syllables. I was taken in, and argued for this counter-intuitive pronunciation for many years afterwards, without bothering to look it up, always coming across as a pure eejit.

    February 21, 2010