vice

Definitions

General English

  • noun criminal activity involving sex
  • noun a tool that screws tight to hold something firm while it is being worked on
  • prefix
    (written as vice-)
    a person who is second in rank to someone

Agriculture

  • noun a bad habit in an animal, e.g. the habit of biting other animals’ tails

Cars & Driving

  • noun a clamping device with adjustable jaws (usually mounted on a workbench) used to grip an object to be worked on

Law

  • adjective a Latin word meaning ‘in the place of’

Origin & History of “vice”

Including the prefix vice-, English has three distinct words vice. The oldest, ‘wickedness’ (13th c.), comes via Old French vice from Latin vitium ‘defect, offence’, which also gave English vicious (14th c.), vitiate (16th c.), and vituperate (16th c.). Vice ‘tool for holding’ (14th c.) was acquired via Old French viz from Latin vītis. This came to denote ‘vine’ (in which sense it gave English viticulture ‘vine-growing’ (19th c.)), but originally it signified ‘tendril’, and it was this that lay behind the original meanings of English vice: ‘winding staircase’ and ‘screw’. Its modern application began to emerge in the 15th century, and derived from the notion of jaws being opened and closed by means of a ‘screw’. The prefix vice- (15th c.) comes from Latin vice ‘in place of’, the ablative case of vicis ‘change’ (source of English vicar, vicissitude, etc).
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