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Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin vitium fault, vice


  • 1 a : moral depravity or corruption : wickedness
b : a moral fault or failing
c : a habitual and usually trivial defect or shortcoming : foible <suffered from the vice of curiosity>
  • 2 : blemish, defect
  • 3 : a physical imperfection, deformity, or taint
  • 4 a often capitalized : a character representing one of the vices in an English morality play
b : buffoon, jester


Fault, offense


Vice is a practice or a habit 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 English 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.

In the United Kingdom the term vice is commonly used in law and law enforcement to refer to criminal offenses related to prostitution, gambling, and pornography. In the United States the term is also used to refer to crimes related to alcohol and narcotics. The precise legality or illegality of such acts is dependent on the jurisdiction. Other similar types of acts perceived as immoral or obscene may be classified as vice by law enforcement as well.

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