Word Origin & History
O.E. yfel (Kentish evel) "bad, vicious," from P.Gmc. *ubilaz (cf. O.Saxon ubil, Goth. ubils), from PIE *upelo-, giving the word an original sense of "uppity, overreaching bounds" which slowly worsened. "In OE., as in all the other early Teut. langs., exc. Scandinavian, this word is the most comprehensive
adjectival expression of disapproval, dislike or disparagement" [OED]. Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm, crime, misfortune, disease. The meaning "extreme moral wickedness" was in O.E., but did not become the main sense until 18c. Related: Evilly. Evil eye (L. oculus malus) was O.E. eage yfel.