1. Mean-spirited or deliberately hurtful; malicious: vicious gossip.
a. Extremely violent or injurious; cruel: a vicious blow to the stomach; vicious tactics in suppressing a rebellion.
b. Marked by an aggressive disposition. Used chiefly of animals.
c. Disposed to violent or destructive behavior: a vicious dictator.
3. Severe, powerful, or intense; fierce: a vicious storm.
a. Having the nature of vice; evil, immoral, or depraved: "All men who succeed ... in finance in New York at last ... return to their native towns, assert that cities are vicious, marry their childhood sweethearts" (Sinclair Lewis).
b. Given to vice, immorality, or depravity: "The sum and substance of it was, That Oliver was a foundling, born of low and vicious parents" (Charles Dickens).
5. Faulty or defective: a forced, vicious style of prose.
[Middle English, from Old French vicieus, from Latin vitiōsus, from vitium, vice.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.