When you curse, you say words you wouldn't want your mother or your priest to hear you saying. A curse can also be wishing something awful on someone, like the witch who puts a curse on Sleeping Beauty.

When you hear "maledizione!" in an Italian opera, somebody's having a curse placed on them. The Italian word tells you just what a curse is — it's a "bad saying" — a really bad saying. Like "May you and all your family have nothing but Brussels sprouts to eat forever and ever!" That would be a curse. As a verb, the act of cursing will lead to getting your mouth washed out with soap.

Definitions of curse
  1. noun
    an appeal to some supernatural power to inflict evil on someone or some group
    synonyms: condemnation, execration
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    a formal ecclesiastical curse accompanied by excommunication
    imprecation, malediction
    the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil (and usually serves as an insult)
    type of:
    denouncement, denunciation
    a public act of denouncing
  2. noun
    an evil spell
    “a witch put a curse on his whole family”
    synonyms: hex, jinx, whammy
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    type of:
    charm, magic spell, magical spell, spell
    a verbal formula believed to have magical force
  3. noun
    a severe affliction
    synonyms: torment
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    type of:
    a cause of great suffering and distress
  4. noun
    something causing misery or death
    synonyms: bane, nemesis, scourge
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    something that spoils, destroys, or impairs
    type of:
    a cause of great suffering and distress
  5. verb
    wish harm upon; invoke evil upon
    “The bad witch cursed the child”
    synonyms: anathemise, anathemize, bedamn, beshrew, damn, imprecate, maledict
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    give a benediction to
    type of:
    arouse, bring up, call down, call forth, conjure, conjure up, evoke, invoke, put forward, raise, stir
    summon into action or bring into existence, often as if by magic
  6. noun
    profane or obscene expression usually of surprise or anger
    synonyms: curse word, cuss, expletive, oath, swearing, swearword
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    type of:
    vulgar or irreverent speech or action
  7. verb
    utter obscenities or profanities
    “The drunken men were cursing loudly in the street”
    synonyms: blaspheme, cuss, imprecate, swear
    speak of in an irreverent or impious manner
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    type of:
    express, give tongue to, utter, verbalise, verbalize
    articulate; either verbally or with a cry, shout, or noise
  8. verb
    heap obscenities upon
    “The taxi driver who felt he didn't get a high enough tip cursed the passenger”
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    type of:
    abuse, blackguard, clapperclaw, shout
    use foul or abusive language towards
  9. verb
    exclude from a church or a religious community
    synonyms: excommunicate, unchurch
    oust or exclude from a group or membership by decree
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    administer Communion; in church
    commune, communicate
    receive Communion, in the Catholic church
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    type of:
    exclude, keep out, shut, shut out
    prevent from entering; shut out
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