1. often Devil In many religions, the major personified spirit of evil, ruler of Hell, and foe of God. Used with the.
2. A subordinate evil spirit; a demon.
3. A wicked or malevolent person.
4. A person: a handsome devil; the poor devil.
5. An energetic, mischievous, daring, or clever person.
6. Printing A printer's devil.
7. A device or machine, especially one having teeth or spikes and used for tearing.
8. An outstanding example, especially of something difficult or bad: has a devil of a temper.
9. A severe reprimand or expression of anger: gave me the devil for cutting class.
10. Informal Used as an intensive: Who the devil do you think you are?
tr.v. dev·iled, dev·il·ing, dev·ils or dev·illed or dev·il·lingIdioms:
1. To season (food) heavily.
2. To annoy, torment, or harass.
3. To tear up (cloth or rags) in a toothed machine.
between the devil and the deep blue sea
Between two equally unacceptable choices.
full of the devil
Very energetic, mischievous, daring, or clever.
give the devil his due
To give credit to a disagreeable or malevolent person.
go to the devil
1. To be unsuccessful; fail.
2. To become depraved.
3. Used in the imperative to express anger or impatience.
play the devil with
To upset or ruin.
the devil take the hindmost
Let each person follow self-interest, leaving others to fare as they may.
the devil to pay
Trouble to be faced as a result of an action: There'll be the devil to pay if you allow the piglets inside the house.
[Middle English devel, from Old English dēofol, from Latin diabolus, from Late Greek diabolos, from Greek, slanderer, from diaballein, to slander : dia-, dia- + ballein, to hurl; see gwelə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
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.