Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
September 20th, 2016
Episode 653 of 796 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 20, 2016 is: nefarious \nih-FAIR-ee-us\ adjective : flagrantly wicked or impious : evil Examples: "The company will not call you to ask for your Social Security or account number, but nefariousscammers might." — Ellen Marks, The Albuquerque Journal, 31 July 2016 "Mention the word 'drugs,' and most people think of nefarious, evil substances bought in the dead of night from shadowy figures who carry guns and feed off of the weaknesses of addicts who seek out their poison with shaking, trembling hands." — Steve Wildsmith, The Daily Times (Maryville, Tennessee), 25 July 2016 Did you know? Vicious and villainous are two wicked synonyms of nefarious, and, like nefarious, both mean "highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct." But these synonyms are not used in exactly the same way in all situations. Vicious may imply moral depravity or it may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence. Villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic, while nefarious (which derives from the Latin noun nefas, meaning "crime") suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct.