The Meaning of Benevolence: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of benevolence? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word benevolence, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word benevolence mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and Dictionary, the word benevolence (pronounced bɪˈnɛvələns) is a noun that refers to the desire to do good unto others, as well as some act of kindness or charitable gift. This can also refer to a forced loan or forced contribution to English kings, though this usage is archaic and only used when referring to the Middle Ages. This disposition or inclination toward charitableness and kindliness is often in one’s nature, and cannot be taught. A person who shows benevolence is kind to her fellow creatures, and may give small donations out of the benevolence of her nature. Someone who has benevolence or goodwill is considered benevolent, the adjective form of the word. If someone does something in a benevolent way, they can be said to have done it benevolently. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! 

There are many other languages that also contain words meaning benevolence. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to the word benevolence. These are called cognates. A cognate is when two words in different languages look and sound similar, and also mean the same thing. These are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word benevolence is provided by Word Sense

  • Catalan: benevolència‎ (fem.)
  • Mandarin: 仁慈‎ (réncí), 仁‎ (rén), 慈悲‎ (cíbēi)
  • Finnish: suopeus‎, hyväntahtoisuus‎
  • Irish: dea-mhéin‎ (fem.)
  • Arabic: النزعَة إلى الخير‎ (masc.) (fem.)
  • Dutch: welwillendheid‎ (fem.)
  • Japanese: 仁‎ (じん, jin), 慈悲‎ (じひ, jihi)
  • French: bienveillance‎ (fem.), bénévolence‎
  • Turkish: hayırseverlik‎, yardımseverlik‎, iyilikseverlik‎, esirgemezlik‎, himmet‎
  • Russian: благожела́тельность‎ (fem.), доброжела́тельность‎ (fem.), доброта́‎ (fem.), ми́лость‎ (fem.)
  • German: Gutmütigkeit‎ (fem.)
  • Portuguese: benevolência‎ (fem.)
  • Romanian: bunăvoință‎ (fem.)
  • Bulgarian: доброжела́телност‎ (fem.)
  • Ido: bonvolo‎
  • Spanish: benevolencia‎ (fem.)
  • Icelandic: örlæti‎
  • Latin: benevolentia‎ (fem.)

What is the origin of the word benevolence?

According to Etymonline, the word benevolence has been used since the year 1400. This word comes from the Old French benivolence, which is spelled bienveillance in Modern French. This comes directly from the Latin benevolentia, meaning good will, from the root bene meaning well and volentem, the nominative volens, which is the present participle of velle meaning to wish. This word is Proto-Indo-European in origin. This was the name that was given to forced loans or contributions to the crown, which were first asked for by Edward IV in 1473. 

How can the word benevolence be used in a sentence?

The word benevolence can be used in many different circumstances to refer to a person’s kindness or act of charity. In this first example, Lana has nursed a kitten back to health. She talks to her mother about the kitten. 

Lana: I’m sad that the kitten got adopted.

Mom: Lana, don’t be sad. He’s going to a great home. I’m so proud of you. Your benevolence kept that baby alive, and now he has a great life ahead of him. Don’t be sad, darling.

Here, Lana’s mom refers to her benevolence; her act of kindness in raising the orphaned kitten. Next, Lana is approached at school by her former friend Hannah.

Hannah: Lana, what are you doing sitting with these losers? Come sit with us.

Lana: First of all, they aren’t losers. They’re in my Dungeons and Dragons club. Second, they’re actually nice to me, unlike you.

Hannah: Nice?

Lana: Yes, nice. Kind. Benevolent. Not that you’ve heard of it.

Here, Lana contrasts her benevolent new friend with Hannah’s poor attitude. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word benevolence?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word benevolence. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary, and can help you avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word benevolence is provided by Thesaurus

  • good will
  • good turn
  • friendship
  • affection
  • philanthropy
  • indulgence
  • blessing
  • decency
  • good intention
  • goodness
  • serviceability
  • gentleness
  • accommodation
  • relief
  • tact
  • benediction
  • solicitude
  • assistance
  • gift
  • kindness
  • aid
  • magnanimity
  • humanity
  • hospitality
  • tolerance
  • graciousness
  • bounty
  • benefaction
  • patience
  • good deed
  • courtesy
  • charity
  • beneficence
  • forbearance
  • boon
  • kindliness
  • fellow feeling
  • feeling
  • lift
  • clemency
  • understanding
  • unselfishness
  • amiability
  • kindheartedness
  • solicitousness
  • friendliness
  • helpfulness
  • thoughtfulness
  • consideration
  • amity
  • sweetness
  • alms
  • delicacy
  • benison
  • cordiality
  • altruism
  • succor
  • boost
  • generosity
  • favor
  • help
  • heart
  • sympathy
  • mildness
  • dispensation
  • grace
  • comity
  • tenderness
  • virtue
  • mercy
  • compassion

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word benevolence. These are known as antonyms. Learning antonyms is another great way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of opposite words for the word benevolence is also provided by Thesaurus

  • venom
  • dirt
  • enmity
  • malignity
  • inhumanity
  • fiendishness
  • maliciousness
  • ferocity
  • hatefulness
  • coldness
  • ill will
  • despite
  • rancor
  • murderousness
  • repugnance
  • persecution
  • malignance
  • barbarism
  • animus
  • cruelty
  • meanness
  • despotism
  • depravity
  • torture
  • bile
  • bitterness
  • savagery
  • insensibility
  • hard-heartedness
  • savageness
  • evil
  • hate
  • callousness
  • spleen
  • animosity
  • umbrage
  • mordacity
  • brutality
  • animality
  • down
  • viciousness
  • bestiality
  • resentment
  • spite
  • hatred
  • malice
  • spitefulness
  • bane
  • despitefulness
  • truculence
  • brutishness
  • fierceness
  • implacability
  • unfeelingness
  • mercilessness
  • malevolence
  • bad blood
  • bloodthirstiness
  • acerbity
  • antipathy
  • wickedness
  • grudge
  • dislike
  • harshness
  • masochism
  • coarseness
  • heartlessness
  • barbarity
  • hostility
  • vindictiveness
  • sadism
  • severity
  • unkindness
  • ruthlessness
  • insensitiveness
  • poison

Overall, the word benevolence means some kindly act or love of mankind. This can refer to charitable acts or a person’s inherent kindness. It can also refer to the compulsory tax that was given to the arbitrary kings of England, though this usage is not archaic. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.wordsense.eu/benevolence/
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/benevolence
  3. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/cruelty
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/benevolence#etymonline_v_11041
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/benevolence
  6. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/benevolence