You can describe someone as devilish if they're nasty and cruel, although this adjective is also used for rascally or naughty people, like the devilish kids you babysit.

A devilish punishment is cruel, but a devilish preschooler simply misbehaves in a playful way. Since about 1600, the word devil has been used to mean not just an "evil, diabolical spirit," but also a "clever rogue." The adjective has followed suit, so you might describe a terrifying movie monster as a devilish creature, while also calling your favorite rascal a devilish creature.

Definitions of devilish
  1. adjective
    showing the cunning or ingenuity or wickedness typical of a devil
    devilish schemes”
    synonyms: diabolic, diabolical, mephistophelean, mephistophelian
    morally bad or wrong
  2. adjective
    playful in an appealingly bold way
    synonyms: rascally, roguish
    full of fun and high spirits
  3. adverb
    in a playfully devilish manner
    synonyms: devilishly
Word Family

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