Definition of villain in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈvɪlən/


1(In a film, novel, or play) a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot: a pantomime villain I have played more good guys than villains
More example sentences
  • Voldermort is the evil villain in the novel, the murderer of Harry's parents, and the creature who plans to kill Harry.
  • This ancestry may also account for the difficulty of explaining the motives of Shakespeare's villains.
  • This is a line that is greatly overused in action movies where an evil villain has plotted to take over the world… or whatever.
1.1British informal A criminal: some people have been tricked by villains with false identity cards the armed villains run off into the night
More example sentences
  • One villains' network put up for sale a database containing credit card details of 7,000 Britons.
  • As has been pointed out previously on spiked, the status of victim and villain are often interchangeable.
  • The Chinese government's reaction - every so often - is to behead a bunch of obvious and odious villains.
criminal, lawbreaker, outlaw, offender, felon, convict, jailbird, malefactor, wrongdoer, black hat, supervillain;
transgressor, sinner;
gangster, gunman, bandit, brigand, desperado, thief, robber, mugger, swindler, fraudster, racketeer, terrorist, pirate;
rogue, scoundrel, wretch, heel, reprobate, charlatan, evil-doer, ruffian, hoodlum, hooligan, thug, delinquent, ne'er-do-well, good-for-nothing
informal crook, con, crim, baddy, shark, rat, snake, snake in the grass, dog, hound, louse, swine, scumbag, wrong 'un
British informal, dated rotter, bounder, bad egg, stinker
Law  malfeasant, misfeasor, infractor
dated cad, knave, rake
archaic miscreant, blackguard
1.2The person or thing responsible for specified problems, harm, or damage: the industrialized nations are the real environmental villains
More example sentences
  • But it is the Scottish banks which are the real villains of the piece, all huddled together in an abysmal performance right at the bottom of the league table.
  • The real villains of this piece are the weekend cottagers, who bring little to our Dales communities except inflated house prices.
  • They even try to hold the country's governing council responsible for the villain's actions and demand immediate attacks.
2 archaic variant spelling of villein.


the villain of the piece

British The person or thing responsible for all of the trouble or harm in a particular situation: TV tends to be cast as the villain of the piece Holdsworth was the villain of the piece when he missed an open goal
More example sentences
  • He thinks she's trying to make him out to be the villain of the piece.
  • The locked-up wife is transformed into the villain of the piece.
  • Jones, the villain of the piece to Americans, was an Australian.


Middle English (in the sense 'a rustic, boor'): from Old French vilein, based on Latin villa (see villa).

  • In medieval England a villain was a feudal tenant who was entirely subject to a lord or manor—now usually spelled villein. People began to use villain as an insult implying someone was a low-born rustic, and the meaning deteriorated even further to ‘a person guilty of a crime, a criminal’. A bad character in a book was a villain from the 1820s. The word came from French and goes back to Latin villa ‘country house with an estate or farm’, from which villa (early 17th century) itself and village (Late Middle English) also derive.

Words that rhyme with villain

Anguillan, Dillon, Dylan, kiln, Macmillan, Milne

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: vil|lain

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