AskDefine | Define vice

Dictionary Definition



1 moral weakness [syn: frailty]
2 a specific form of evildoing; "vice offends the moral standards of the community"

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /vaɪs/
  • Rhymes with: -aɪs


Etymology 1

From vitium.


  1. A bad habit.
    Smoking is a vice, not a virtue.
  2. prostitution
    The Vice Squad is active tonight.
Related terms
bad habit
legal term for prostitution

See also

Etymology 2

From vis, from vis, viz, from vitis; probably akin to English withy.


  1. A mechanical screw apparatus used for clamping or holding (also spelled vise).
screw apparatus

Extensive Definition

Vice is a practice or habit that is considered immoral, depraved, and/or degrading in the associated society. In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a defect, an infirmity, or merely a bad habit. Synonyms for vice include fault, depravity, sin, iniquity, wickedness and corruption. The modern Spanish term that best captures its original meaning is the word vicious, which means "full of vice." In this sense, the word vice comes from the Latin word vitium, meaning "failing or defect". Vice is the opposite of virtue.
Vice is also a generic legal term for criminal offenses involving prostitution, lewdness, lasciviousness, and obscenity. Illegal forms of gambling are also often included as a vice in law enforcement departments that deal with gambling as a crime.

Overview of religious views on vice

One way of organizing the vices is as the corruption of the virtues. A virtue can be corrupted by nonuse, misuse, or overuse. Thus the cardinal vices would be lust (nonuse of temperance), cowardice (nonuse of courage), folly (misuse of a virtue, opposite of wisdom), and venality (nonuse of justice). See: The four virtues.

Examples of vices

Some vices recognized in various cultures of the world include:

Popular usage

The term vice is also popularly applied to various activities considered immoral by some; a list of these might include the use of alcohol and other recreational drugs, gambling, smoking, recklessness, cheating, lying, selfishness. It is also used in reference to police vice units who prosecute crimes associated with these activities. Often, vice particularly designates a failure to comply with the sexual mores of the time and place such as sexual promiscuity.
Behaviors or attitudes going against the established virtues of the culture may also be called vices: for instance, effeminacy is considered a vice in a culture espousing masculinity as an essential element of the character of males.

See also


  • Virtues and Vices, Aristotle, trans. H. Rackman, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, l992. Vol #285.
  • In the Garden of Evil: The Vices and Culture in the Middle Ages. Edited by Richard Newhauser, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto 2005 ISBN 0-88844-818-X


vice in German: Laster
vice in Spanish: Vicio
vice in French: Vice
vice in Portuguese: Vício
vice in Russian: Порок
vice in Finnish: Pahe
vice in Slovak: Neresť
vice in Swedish: Last (psykologi)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

advocate, alter ego, alternate, amicus curiae, as proxy for, as representing, attorney, backup, backup man, bad habit, badness, besetting sin, blemish, champion, corruption, crime, criminal tendency, criminality, criminosis, debasement, debauchery, decay, defect, deficiency, degeneracy, degradation, depravity, deputy, discourtesy, disorder, disorderliness, disorderly conduct, disruption, disruptiveness, dummy, evil, evil courses, evildoing, executive officer, exponent, failing, failure, fault, feloniousness, figurehead, flaw, foible, for, frailty, frowned-upon behavior, hooliganism, horseplay, ill, immorality, imperfection, impropriety, in behalf of, in lieu of, in place of, in preference to, indecency, infirmity, iniquity, lawbreaking, licentiousness, lieutenant, locum, locum tenens, malfeasance, malpractice, malversation, misbehavior, misconduct, misdemeanor, misdoing, misfeasance, misprision, misprision of treason, moral flaw, naughtiness, nonsanctioned behavior, on behalf of, paranymph, perversion, pinch hitter, pleader, positive misprision, procurator, profligacy, proxy, replacing, representative, rot, roughhouse, rowdiness, rowdyism, ruffianism, second in command, secondary, shortcoming, sin, sinfulness, squalor, stand-in, substitute, surrogate, thou scarlet sin, transgression, unchastity, understudy, utility man, vandalism, venality, venial sin, vicar, vicar general, vicegerent, viciousness, villainy, weak point, weak side, weakness, wickedness, wrong, wrong conduct, wrongdoing
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