Definition of sinister in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsɪnɪstə/


1Giving the impression that something harmful or evil is happening or will happen: there was something sinister about that murmuring voice
More example sentences
  • Bound in the flayed skin of 100 saints and penned with the blood of virgins, this sinister and forbidden occult text is an item of incredible power.
  • Yet there are more sinister happenings afoot, as Count Dracula himself jumps into the mix, searching for a serum to make him invincible.
  • Norrell's love of secrecy and Strange's attraction to the wilder edges of magic invoke dark and sinister happenings.
menacing, threatening, ominous, forbidding, baleful, frightening, eerie, alarming, disturbing, disquieting, dark, black, suggestive of evil, evil-looking;
Scottish  eldritch
informal spooky, scary, creepy
rare minatory, minacious, minatorial, bodeful, direful, sinistrous
1.1Evil or criminal: there might be a more sinister motive behind the government’s actions
More example sentences
  • In many of his books, the heroes are noble trial lawyers while the villains are sinister corporations and the lawyers who agree to defend them.
  • Instead it's a candid admission he once lived the furtive lifestyle of a sinister international beer villain.
  • Judge Laity in England described the group as ‘corrupt, sinister and dangerous’.
2 [attributive] archaic & Heraldry Of, on, or towards the left-hand side (in a coat of arms, from the bearer’s point of view, i.e. the right as it is depicted). The opposite of dexter1.
Example sentences
  • Each coat of arms has a right and left (i.e. dexter and sinister) heraldic side, as observed by the person carrying the shield.



Pronunciation: /ˈsɪnɪstəli/
Example sentences
  • He's dangerously ambitious, sinisterly ambitious.
  • More sinisterly, they were - and remain - one of the chief means by which the party keeps an eye on China's citizens, ever watchful for signs of dissent or unrest.
  • A look back at his work would reveal a persistent obsession with pain, suffering and the sinisterly hypnotic potential of martyrdom to provoke and inspire.


Example sentences
  • I found Tom McBeath's Iago a very comical one, but he lacked the sinisterness and maliciousness that comprises the other half of Iago's persona.
  • In terms of sheer sinisterness, though, I think Herr Lipp and Papa Lazarou are hard to beat.
  • Perhaps they thought a dose of sinisterness would give listeners something they could get a firm grip on, but for all the pent-up fantasies that fueled this record, Enemies doesn't rise to the occasion.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'malicious, underhand'): from Old French sinistre or Latin sinister 'left'.

  • In Latin sinister meant ‘left’ or ‘left-hand’, but apart from terms in heraldry such as bend sinister, a broad diagonal stripe from top right to bottom left of a shield which is a supposed sign of illegitimacy, sinister in English has never meant the physical left-hand side. Instead it reflects deep-rooted prejudices against left-handedness, which had associations of evil, malice, or dishonesty. See also ambidextrous, dexterous

Words that rhyme with sinister

administer, maladminister, minister

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sin¦is|ter

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