"Right" is to "righteous" as "wrong" is to _______?

What sparked my question was variation in translations of Psalm 1 where the righteous is contrasted with the wicked, the ungodly, sinners... I realized there is no wrongeous and wondered why, and what is the direct opposite of righteous. The Hebrew source I am sure has linguistic etymology at play in translations. This was just what sparked my curiosity as to the English direct antonym of righteous.

There seems to be no English word for one who does wrong that contains the word wrong in it, like righteous contains right. I looked for an antonyms of righteous, but don't find any parallel adjectives.

Dictionary Definition 1



  1. (of a person or conduct) morally right or justifiable; virtuous.
    "he is a good, righteous man, I am sure"
    synonyms: good, virtuous, upright, upstanding, decent; More ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, law-abiding, honest, honorable, blameless, irreproachable, noble; saintly, angelic, pure "righteous living" justifiable, justified, legitimate, defensible, supportable, rightful; admissible, allowable, understandable, excusable, acceptable, reasonable "righteous anger"
    antonyms: sinful, unjustifiable

If a person who does right is righteous, then I thought the closest parallel antonym might be wrong-doers. However, in looking at they etymology, it seems that the -eous ending connotates both doing (manner) and being (state).

Etymology/Origin 1

Old English rihtwīs, from riht ‘right+ wīs ‘manner, state, condition’ The change in the ending in the 16th century was due to association with words such as bounteous.

So what English word would be the antonym for righteous that would be self contained and connote both wrong doing and wrong

1 Provisional citation : Oxford Living Dictionaries

  • 1
    There's not necessarily going to be a perfect parallel (language isn't logic), but wrongful might come close enough.
    – 1006a
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 1:59
  • 1
    Yeah, what's wrong with wrongful? Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 2:53
  • 2
    The word 'wrongful' doesn't quite do it for me. It's a bit tame, don't ya know. Not wanting to pussyfoot around, I'm rather more inclined to the word 'iniquitous'. 'Diabolical' is even better! Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 5:49
  • 2
    One point that you seem to make is that righteous is used of "manner" and "state". I take from this that you mean both as adjective and noun. Wrongdoer certainly qualifies as a noun. And I suppose, at a push, you could use wrongdoing - the wrongdoing candidate joked about his abuse of women. But if you are looking for a direct antonym, surely the obvious one is unrighteous.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 10:06
  • 2
    The opposite of "righteous" is "lefteous" of course.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


This is rather simple matter actually. If anything it must be the corresponding root word with the same suffix applied, which is wrongous:

  1. Wrongful; unjust; improper.
  2. In Scots law, not right; unjust; illegal: as, wrongous imprisonment.1

Although dictionary attested and morphologically valid, we would be more likely to use wrongful instead:

Wrongful Full of wrong; injurious; unjust; unfair; as, a wrongful taking of property; wrongful dealing. 1

Between these synonyms, Google Ngrams3 indicates that Wrongful has been generally more popular thoroughout history, although Wrongful was not too overwhelmingly more preferred until it gained widespread popularity around 1813 when it begun to be much more popular.

We can verify the synonymy of the -ous and -ful suffixes by checking their definitions:

-ous A suffix of Latin origin, forming, from nouns, adjectives denoting fullness or abundance, or sometimes merely the presence, of the thing or quality expressed by the noun, as in callous, famous, generous, odious, religious, sumptuous, vicious, etc. (see etymology).2

-ful 1. Used to form adjectives from nouns. An adjective derived by this suffix implies a thorough and certain possession of the quality of that noun, not a metaphorical fullness with it by degree or quantity. One who is wakeful is fully awake, not frequently waking; what is changeful is uncertain, not transformed; what is harmful may do a single and a mild injury.
2. Used to form nouns from nouns meaning “as much as can be held by what is denoted by the noun” 4

Both the -ous suffix and the -ful suffix simply indicate fullness in one way or another, with the -ful suffix simply being taken from Middle English instead of Latin, so since it is more popular I suggest using wrongful over wrongous in prose. However if prosody is a concern, then wrongous is a closer match.

One final note is that I wouldn't use either suffix to directly denote state. While fullness implies a sort of state, that is the job of the -ness and -ity suffixes:

-ness A suffix used to form abstract nouns expressive of quality or state; as, goodness, greatness. 1

-ity suffix Used to form a noun from an adjective; especially, to form the noun referring to the state, property, or quality of conforming to the adjective's description. Suffix Used to form other nouns, especially abstract nouns. 4

Thus you may also want to consider wrongness or wrongfulness depending on what you are trying to describe:

Wrongness The quality or state of being wrong; wrongfulness; error; fault. 1

Wrongfulness The quality of being wrong or wrongful; injustice. 1

References & Alternative Verification Links:

1 These definitions were taken from the 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
2 This partial definition was taken from the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
3 Archives.is has a copy of the Google nGrams for Wrongous, Wrongful, Wrongfulness and Wrongness
4 These definitions were taken from Wikitionary and are licensed under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license.

Collins English Dictionary — Complete and Unabridged 12th Edition, and Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary also contain entries for Wrongous, albeit not many other recent dictionaries do.

  • So, wrongous is actually an antiquated word! Interesting! Thank you for your thorough post.
    – Sarah
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 20:42

A person who does right is not necessarily righteous; to be righteous suggests one is blameless in character as opposed to exhibiting any calculated moral excellence:

Morally upright; without guilt or sin

as AHD has it, though in modern use does carry some connotations of hypocrisy and/or religious sanctimony, especially those who are self-righteous.

In any case, the perpetual counterpart of righteous is wicked in the King James Bible, notably in the Books of Proverbs and the Psalms, but elsewhere with too many examples to list:

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? (Genesis 18:23)

And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. (Exodus 9:27)

If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. (Deuteronomy 25:1)

… The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. (Ezekiel 33:12)

Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. (Malachi 3:18)

From the Bible it has found its way into popular uses, of course, recently including a popular Red Hot Chili Peppers song and a more lightly-regarded 2010 film.

Someone who is wicked is corrupt in the same way that someone who is righteous is guiltless, so I think this should suit your purposes.

But barring that, you could always go with unrighteous.

  • I am going to note that Choster's answer was provided at a point in time where he had no reason to believe wicked had already been considered, possibly due to an error on the part of the questioner in the first revision of the question. However I also believe it has been, since substantial similarities indicate that it is probable that the questioner's research was performed at the Oxford Living Dictionaries website which provides wicked as an antonym .
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 4:55
  • Though I had not used that dictionary, "wicked" is one translation used in some versions of Psalm 1, which sparked my question.
    – Sarah
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 20:47

So what English word would be the antonym for righteous that would be self contained and connote both wrong doing and wrong


1 a : befitting a villain (as in evil or depraved character) b : being or having the character of a villain : depraved 2 : highly objectionable

"Villainous." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2016.

  • For poetic contrasting rhyme, this could be helpful.
    – Sarah
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 20:44

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