adjective, dated

their dastardly plan to kidnap Hayes

wicked, evil, heinous, villainous, diabolical, fiendish, barbarous, cruel, black, dark, rotten, vile, monstrous, abominable, despicable, degenerate, sordid; bad, base, mean, low, dishonorable, dishonest, unscrupulous, unprincipled; informal lowdown, dirty, shady, rascally, crooked; beastly
dastard, dastardly
Dastard (= coward) is commonly muddled because of the sound association with its harsher rhyme, bastard. Although English usage authority H. W. Fowler insisted that dastard should be reserved for "one who avoids all personal risk", modern American writers tend to use it as a printable euphemism for the more widely objectionable epithet — e.g.: "Samuel Ramey is the dastard of the piece, the treacherous, lecherous, murderous Assur." (Los Angeles Times; May 22, 1994.) British writers, on the other hand, have remained truer to the word's original sense — e.g.: "Last week I moved house from London to Brighton but like a genuine spineless dastard I flatly denied its implications on personal relationships to the last." (Times [London]; Feb. 8, 1994.) Recent American dictionaries record one meaning of dastard as being "dishonorable, despicable" or "treacherously underhanded." So the new meaning should probably now be considered standard.
Like the noun form, the adjective dastardly has been subjected to slipshod extension. Although most dictionaries define it merely as "cowardly", it is now often used as if it meant "sneaky and underhanded; treacherous" — e.g.: "He's b-a-a-a-c-k. Dastardly J. R. Ewing and his oft-manipulated clan rise from TV dustdom to air three times a day on TNN, Cable Channel 37, beginning Monday." (Tulsa World; Sept. 27, 1996.) — BG

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  • Dastardly — Das tard*ly, a. Meanly timid; cowardly; base; as, a dastardly outrage. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dastardly — like cowardly, is often used in a manner described by Fowler (1926) as inappropriate because it describes actions that, however reprehensible and brutal they may be, at least require boldness and courage. Acts of terrorism, however despicable,… …   Modern English usage

  • dastardly — index caitiff, recreant, scandalous Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • dastardly — 1560s, showing despicable cowardice, originally dull, from M.E. DASTARD (Cf. dastard) + LY (Cf. ly) (1) …   Etymology dictionary

  • dastardly — [adj] rotten base, contemptible, cowardly, craven, despicable, low, mean, pusillanimous, underhanded, vile; concepts 404,545,570,571,574 …   New thesaurus

  • dastardly — ► ADJECTIVE dated or humorous ▪ wicked and cruel. ORIGIN from archaic dastard despicable person , probably from dazed and influenced by dotard and bastard …   English terms dictionary

  • dastardly — [das′tərdlē] adj. of or like a dastard; mean and cowardly SYN. COWARDLY dastardliness n …   English World dictionary

  • dastardly — [[t]dæ̱stə(r)dli[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED: ADJ n If you describe an action as dastardly, you mean it is wicked and intended to hurt someone. [OLD FASHIONED] He described the killing as a dastardly act. ...a dastardly attack on the queen. 2) ADJ GRADED …   English dictionary

  • dastardly — adjective Date: 1542 1. cowardly 2. characterized by underhandedness or treachery < a dastardly attack > < a dastardly villain > Synonyms: see cowardly • dastardliness noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • dastardly — dastardliness, n. /das teuhrd lee/, adj. cowardly; meanly base; sneaking: a dastardly act. [1560 70; DASTARD + LY] * * * …   Universalium

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