Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Infamous by way of being extremely wicked.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. infamous for being wicked
  • adj. wicked or criminal

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Wicked in the extreme; abominable; iniquitous; atrociously villainous; execrable; detestably vile.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Wicked in the extreme; heinous; abominable; atrociously sinful or villainous; detestably vile.
  • Synonyms Nefarious, Execrable, Flagitious, Enormous, Villainous, Abominable, Horrible, atrocious, infamous, iniquitous, impious, dreadful, detestable. The first seven words characterize extreme wickedness. As with the words under atrocious, when loosely used they approach each other in meaning; hence only their primary meanings will be indicated here: nefarious, unspeakably wicked, impious; execrable, worthy of execration or cursing, utterly hateful; flagitious, proceeding from burning desire (as lust), grossly or brutally wicked or vile, enormous, not common in this sense except with a strong noun, as enormous wickedness, but sometimes meaning wicked beyond common measure; villainous, worthy of a villain, greatly criminal or capable of great crimes; abominable, loathsome in wickedness, the object of a religious detestation; horrible, exciting horror, mental agitation, or shrinking; shocking: it is less common as applied to moral conduct, See abandoned, atrocious, criminal, and irreligious.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. extremely wicked

Etymologies

Latin nefārius, from nefās, crime, transgression : ne-, not; see ne in Indo-European roots + fās, divine law; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin nefārius ("execrable, abominable"), from nefas ("something contrary to divine law, an impious deed, sin, crime"), from ne- ("not") + fas ("the dictates of religion, divine law"), related to for ("I speak, I say"), and cognate to φημί (phemi, "I say"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • When I was about 12 my father, I think out of pure jest, told me this word was pronounced "nef-a-rus", i.e. with three syllables. I was taken in, and argued for this counter-intuitive pronunciation for many years afterwards, without bothering to look it up, always coming across as a pure eejit.

    February 21, 2010

  • Nefarious was a Burmese dictator who lived at the bottom of the garden.

    February 20, 2010

  • A definition does no good if it uses a very near synonym in the definition. For example, we define 'nefarious' as infamous by way of being extremely wicked. The words 'nefarious' and 'infamous' are very nearly the same in meaning; so if anyone is deeply confused or curious about nefarious, then he or she is of course going to be confused or curious about the 'infamous'. The question is what general characteristics are possessed by all things nefarious. It's one of the fallacies of definition

    February 20, 2010

  • I want a screen name with this word!

    November 5, 2009

  • So delightfully melodramatic...

    December 22, 2008