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

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

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What does the word sinister mean?

According to the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Collins English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, is an adjective that means evil or having a baleful influence. This term was used archaically in heraldry to refer to something on the left side of the bearer’s point or wearer’s standpoint. This would be on the left side of a shield or coat of arms. The side of the left hand is considered the unlucky side. Many things can be sinister, like a sinister accident, sinister remark, or scheme of some sinister intelligence. The suffixes ness and ly can be added to the end of the word sinister to form the related words sinisterness (n.) and sinisterly (adv.). Sinister is three syllables – sin-is-ter, and the pronunciation of sinister is ˈsi-nə-stər.

There are many different languages that also use words that mean sinister. You may notice that many of these words look similar to one another. This is likely because they have a common origin. Often, languages that have a common language of origin, like Latin or Greek, will contain many cognates, which are words that look, sound, and mean similar things. This list of translations for the word sinister is provided by Word Sense

  •  Armenian: չար‎
  •  Neapolitan: malo‎
  •  Maore Comorian: ovu‎
  •  Indonesian: jahat‎
  •  Visayan: demonyo
  •  Scottish Gaelic: olc‎ (masc.), aingidheachd‎ (fem.), urchaid‎ (fem.), truaighe‎ (fem.)
  •  Spanish: siniestro‎ (masc.)
  •  Mandarin: 邪惡‎, 邪恶‎, 壞‎, 坏‎, 凶狠‎ (xiōnghěn)
  •  Asturian: malu‎
  •  Khmer: អាក្រក់‎ (aakrɑk), ដែលព្យាបាទ‎ (dael pyiebaat)
  •  Italian: sinistro‎ (masc.)
  •  Estonian: paha‎, kuri‎
  •  Roman: zao‎
  •  Latin: malus‎
  •  Haitian Creole: move‎, mechan‎
  •  Latgalian: ļauns‎
  •  Hungarian: gonosz‎
  •  Lower Sorbian: zły‎
  •  Romanian: sinistru‎
  •  Georgian: ბოროტი‎
  •  Czech: zlý‎ (masc.)
  •  Macedonian: лош‎ (loš), зол‎ (zol)
  •  Latvian: ļauns‎
  •  Coptic: ϩⲟⲟⲩ‎ (hoou)
  •  Limburgish: kwaod‎, euvel‎
  •  German: böse‎, übel‎
  •  Bulgarian: лош‎ (masc.), зъл‎
  •  Portuguese: sinistro‎
  •  French: sinistre‎ (masc.) (f)
  •  Russian: злой‎
  •  Ojibwe: maji-‎
  •  Dutch: kwaadaardig‎, boosaardig‎, kwaad‎, slecht‎, euvel‎
  •  Icelandic: illur‎ (masc.), ill‎ (fem.) illt‎ (neut.), vondur‎, slæmur‎
  •  Esperanto: malbona‎
  •  Belarusian: злы‎
  •  Slovak: zlý‎
  •  Basque: gaizto‎
  •  Hiligaynon: malain‎
  •  Ido: mala‎
  •  Danish: ond‎, slem‎, slet‎, dårlig‎, skadelig‎
  •  Upper Sorbian: zły‎
  •  Norwegian: ond‎, slem‎
  •  Greek: κακός‎ (masc.)
  •  Old Church Slavonic: зълъ‎ (zŭlŭ)
  •  Lithuanian: piktas‎, blogas‎
  •  Cyrillic: зао‎
  •  Sinhalese: දුෂ්ට‎ ඉතා නරක‎
  •  Malay: jahat‎
  •  Kazakh: қастық‎
  •  Turkish: kötücül‎
  •  Kannada: ಕೆಟ್ಟ‎, (formally) ದುಷ್ಠ‎
  •  Persian: شرور‎ (šarur), بدکار‎ (badkâr)
  •  Navajo: doo yáʼáshǫ́ǫ da‎
  •  Finnish: paha‎
  •  Arabic: شِرِّير‎
  •  Vietnamese: ác‎
  •  Telugu: దుష్ట‎, దెయ్యం‎
  •  Old English: unriht‎
  •  Tupinambá: poxy‎
  •  Faroese: óndur‎, óreinur‎
  •  Japanese: 悪い‎, 邪心‎
  •  Hebrew: רע‎, מרושע‎
  •  Slovene: zèl‎ (masc.), hudôben‎ (masc.)
  •  Volapük: badik‎
  •  Ukrainian: злий‎
  •  Interlingua: mal‎, malefic‎
  •  Hindi: दुष्ट‎ (duṣṭa), बुरा‎ (burā), पापी‎ (pāpī)
  •  Catalan: malvat‎, dolent‎, maliciós‎, malèfic‎, roí‎
  •  Thai: ชั่วร้าย‎ (chạ̀w r̂āy)
  •  Polish: zły‎
  •  Swedish: ond‎, elak‎

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word sinister?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word sinister. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful English grammatical devices to know because they can help you to avoid repeating yourself as well as to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word sinister is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  wicked
  •  frightening
  •  forbidding
  •  ominous
  •  inauspicious
  •  alarming
  •  spooky
  •  scary
  •  black
  •  malignant
  •  minatory
  •  foreboding
  •  unkind
  •  iniquitous
  •  disastrous
  •  mean
  •  malicious
  •  creepy
  •  vile
  •  villainous
  •  left
  •  vindictive
  •  bad
  •  base
  •  baleful
  •  ill-omened
  •  dire
  •  spiteful
  •  atrocious
  •  corrupt
  •  injurious
  •  threatening
  •  foul
  •  unlucky
  •  nefarious
  •  eerie
  •  heinous
  •  portentous
  •  pernicious
  •  fiendish
  •  baneful
  •  minacious
  •  larboard 
  •  malevolent
  •  dark
  •  unpropitious
  •  grim
  •  malign
  •  evil
  •  menacing

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word sinister. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are also useful to know if you are trying to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  dexter
  •  elegant
  •  clockwise
  •  at three o’clock
  •  right-hand
  •  right wing
  •  white
  •  auspicious
  •  salubrious
  •  beautiful
  •  unalarming
  •  deeply religious
  •  beneficial
  •  glorious
  •  as pretty as a picture
  •  cushionhearted
  •  favorable
  •  bright
  •  starboard
  •  3 o’clock
  •  golden
  •  right
  •  guilt-free
  •  propitious
  •  medical
  •  complaisant
  •  as pure as the driven snow
  •  encouraging
  •  consolable
  •  benevolent
  •  ahead of the pack
  •  favourable
  •  dextral
  •  joyful
  •  at the right side
  •  eye candy
  •  amiable
  •  good
  •  benign
  •  heartening
  •  right-hand side
  •  face of cloth
  •  friendly
  •  promising
  •  face
  •  right side
  •  aesthetic
  •  anodyne
  •  choong
  •  right-wing

What is the origin of the word sinister?

According to Etymonline, the word sinister has been used since the C15 Middle English sinistre. This word comes from the Latin sinister, meaning left hand side. This is the opposite of dexter, which means right side. This is also connected with the Old French senestre and sinistre.

How can the word sinister (adj.) be used in a sentence?

The sinister plot unfolded in a mysterious way, with tragic developments unfolding in a mysterious way.

The spectator watched the ugly black clouds roll in. These sinister storm clouds were the type of thunderclouds that would surely bring destructiveness to the town.

Darth Vader of the dark side shows sinister, dark undercurrents of ethnic hostility. His black lie and black deeds show the true colors of his black heart.

His sinister smile told the viewer she was in covert danger. She knew this was one of the unfortunate omens of the villain. 

She saw the mayor give a baleful look of sinister purposes during the rumblings of discontent.

Her sinister glance was an ill omen of her threatening behavior.

Overall, the word sinister means having evil characteristics  for existing for some dark purpose as well as something that is on the left-hand side, left of the bearer or the wearer’s left.


  1. Sinister | Definition of Sinister | Merriam-Webster 
  2. sinister | Origin and meaning of sinister | Online Etymology Dictionary
  3. evil: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. Sinister synonyms – 1 211 Words and Phrases for Sinister | Power Thesaurus 
  5. Sinister antonyms – 241 Opposites of Sinister | Power Thesaurus