What Does Vicious Mean? | The Word Counter

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

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What does the word vicious mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge English Dictionary, the word vicious is an adjective (pronounced ​​​ˈvɪʃəs) that means having the intention to hurt or harm someone or something. This can be used literally or figuratively. There might be a vicious dog tied up outside a junkyard, or a vicious look from one person to another. Vicious tabloids might disrespect a ​family’s privacy. A vicious criminal with a vicious temper might escape from prison, or a vicious cycle of vicious gossip could overrun a middle school. The word vicious can be used to describe many things, from a vicious bull, to vicious monkeys, to vicious journalism, to vicious gangs, to vicious reasoning, to vicious kicks. Something that is vicious has the nature of vice, with poor conduct and censure. These bad habits could create a vicious life in and out of prison, picked up by the police.Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many different languages also contain words that mean vicious. You might notice that some of these words look and sound like the word vicious. These are called cognates. Cognates, which are words and phrases that look and sound similar across languages while also retaining the same meaning are usually formed when two words have the same language of origin or root word. This list of translations for the word vicious is provided by Word Sense

  • Esperanto: malvirta‎
  • Irish: ainbhéasach‎, coirpe‎, drochmhúinte‎, duáilceach‎, mínáireach‎, oilbhéasach‎, olc‎
  • Cebuano: mapintas nga‎
  • French: vicieux‎ (masc.), vicieuse‎ (fem.)
  • Spanish: vicioso‎
  • Turkish: ahlaksız‎, kötü‎, muzır‎
  • Czech: neřestný‎
  • Japanese: 悪質な‎ (Akushitsuna)
  • Latin: vitiosus‎
  • Igbo: ajọ‎
  • Armenian: արատավոր‎
  • German: böse‎, boshaft‎, übel‎, unmoralisch‎
  • Georgian: მანკიერი‎
  • Swedish: illvillig‎, elak‎, ond‎, omoralisk‎
  • Javanese: ganas‎
  • Finnish: paheellinen‎

How can the word vicious be used in a sentence?

The word vicious can be used both literally and figuratively to refer to things that are mean, have a fierce disposition, are nasty, or want to hurt someone or something. In this first example, the word vicious will be used literally. Tawny runs into her house out of breath. Her mother asks her what happened. 

Mom: Tawny, what’s the matter? Why are you all sweaty?

Tawny: I was walking home from school and some guy let his psycho, vicious pet rodent run around his yard without a leash. It scaled a vicious looking chain fence, then it saw my hot dog and chased me all the way home!

Mom: Oh my God.

Tawny: Maybe we should become cat owners.

Here, Tawny describes the rodent that chased her home as vicious. She believes the pet had the internet to hurt her and steal her hot dog. At least she did not have to deal with vicious weather on top of it! Next, Tawny is in an argument with her friend after the spelling bee.

Tawny: You’ve been so mean to me ever since I beat you in the spelling bee. You give me these vicious looks across the classroom and it’s so rude. All of this poisonous hate and venemous criticism is a criminal waste of talent. We’ve been friends since kindergarten, and you’re going to let one stupid competition ruin that?

Friend: It was so rigged in your favor. I’m rightfully upset. 

What is the origin of the word vicious?

According to Etymonline, the word vicious has been used since the late 14th century to refer to something that is wicked or harmful. This comes from the Anglo-French vicious, from the Old French vicios or Old French vicieus meaning wicked or cunning. In Modern French, this word is spelled vicieux. This comes from the Latin vitiōsus (in Medieval Latin, vicious) meaning faulty or wicked. This comes from the Latin vitium meaning fault. THis is where we get the related words vice and victim. Vicious was first used to mean savage or dangerous in 1711. It has been used to mean bitter or spiteful since 1825. In law, the word was used to mean marred by fault in the late 14th century. Other related words include the noun viciousness and the adverb viciously. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word vicious?

There are a lot of different words that a person can use in place of the word vicious. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a great way to avoid repeating the same word over and over again and can also be useful to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word vicious is provided by Thesaurus

  • savage
  • ornery
  • beastly
  • heinous
  • depraved
  • infamous
  • faulty
  • intense
  • sinful
  • insubordinate
  • vehement
  • rotten
  • libidinous
  • poisonous
  • foul
  • violent
  • monstrous
  • base
  • slanderous
  • ferocious
  • indecent
  • cussed
  • rough
  • contaminated
  • malevolent
  • abhorrent
  • wrong
  • bad
  • tough
  • fierce
  • murderous
  • bloodthirsty
  • backbiting
  • licentious
  • diabolical
  • vile
  • frightful
  • wild
  • corrupt
  • demoralized
  • wicked
  • perverse
  • villainous
  • reprobate
  • venomous
  • lousy
  • cruel
  • unprincipled
  • flagitious
  • worthless
  • impious
  • degraded
  • barbarous
  • nasty
  • immoral
  • reprehensible
  • impure
  • fiendish
  • nefarious
  • abandoned
  • despiteful
  • mean
  • vindictive
  • dangerous
  • profligate
  • degenerate
  • evil
  • debased
  • atrocious
  • miscreant
  • putrid
  • malign
  • brutal
  • hateful
  • rancorous
  • iniquitous
  • furious
  • horrid
  • dirty
  • defamatory
  • untamed
  • lewd
  • spiteful
  • malicious

There are also numerous different words and phrases that have the opposite meaning as the word vicious. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are another quick and easy way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of opposite words for the word vicious is also provided by Thesaurus

  • unpresumptuous
  • favorable
  • fine and dandy
  • boss
  • first-rate
  • seemly
  • likable
  • sound
  • up to snuff
  • kindly
  • first-class
  • inviting
  • agreeable
  • crack
  • considerate
  • worthy
  • wonderful
  • neat
  • exceptional
  • courteous
  • satisfactory
  • simpatico
  • charming
  • tip-top
  • commendable
  • acceptable
  • excellent
  • super-excellent
  • precious
  • nice
  • delightful
  • copacetic
  • genial
  • gracious
  • welcome
  • congenial
  • great
  • well-mannered
  • swell
  • super
  • capital
  • select
  • becoming
  • stupendous
  • sterling
  • gnarly
  • honorable
  • amiable
  • friendly
  • bad
  • gentle
  • marvelous
  • obliging
  • ingratiating
  • kind
  • valuable
  • approved
  • lovely
  • ace
  • prime
  • pleasurable
  • bully
  • peachy
  • winning
  • prepossessing
  • helpful
  • choice
  • reputable
  • positive
  • superior
  • pleasing
  • fair
  • gratifying
  • superb
  • ducky
  • polite
  • admirable
  • pleasant
  • rad
  • satisfying
  • super-eminent
  • okay
  • nifty
  • winsome
  • deluxe
  • spanking
  • cordial
  • attractive
  • decorous
  • splendid
  • good
  • shipshape

Overall, the word vicious is an adjective that means having the intent to harm someone or something badly. This word is French in origin and can be used both literally and figuratively. Figuratively, vicious borrowers might offer low-income people a high-interest loan at the expense of others. Literally, it could refer to a deplorable act of violence, brutal beatings, cruel tortures, a barbarous crime, or some otherwise aggressive disposition. Many things can be vicious, from a vicious person or vicious man so a vicious remark or vicious means by which to do something. 


  1. https://www.wordsense.eu/vicious/
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/vicious
  3. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/nice
  4. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/nice
  5. https://www.etymonline.com/word/vicious#etymonline_v_7768
  6. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vicious#:~:text=1a%20%3A%20dangerously%20aggressive%20%3A%20savage,2%20%3A%20malicious%2C%20spiteful%20vicious%20gossip
  7. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/vicious