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[ni-fair-ee-uh s] /nɪˈfɛər i əs/
extremely wicked or villainous; iniquitous:
a nefarious plot.
Origin of nefarious
1595-1605; < Latin nefārius wicked, vile, equivalent to nefās offense against divine or moral law (ne- negative prefix + fās law, right) + -ius -ious, with intervocalic s > r
Related forms
nefariously, adverb
nefariousness, noun
unnefarious, adjective
unnefariously, adverb
unnefariousness, noun
flagitious, heinous, infamous; vile, atrocious, execrable.
good, honest. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for nefarious
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They do treat 'em nefarious down thah on the wholesale plantations.

    The Crisis, Complete Winston Churchill
  • They were probably out on the trail pursuing their nefarious calling.

  • To accomplish his nefarious designs the Evil Spirit assumed forms calculated to attain his object.

    Welsh Folk-Lore Elias Owen
  • Might she not be the tool, consciously or unconsciously, of a nefarious plot?

    The Crevice William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander
  • Within three years the enormous sum of 87,000 sterling was paid over to Jones as his share in this nefarious transaction.

British Dictionary definitions for nefarious


evil; wicked; sinful
Derived Forms
nefariously, adverb
nefariousness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin nefārius, from nefās unlawful deed, from not + fās divine law
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for nefarious

c.1600, from Latin nefarius "wicked, abominable, impious," from nefas "crime, wrong, impiety," from ne- "not" (see un-) + fas "right, lawful, divinely spoken," related to fari "to speak" (see fame (n.)). Related: Nefariously.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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