also daemonic, 1660s, "devilish, of the nature of or pertaining to a demon," from Latin daemonicus, from daemon (see demon). Demonical is from late 15c. Old English glossed daemonicus with deofelseoc ("devil-sick").
late 14c., deabolik, "pertaining to the Devil; outrageously wicked, infernal," from Old French diabolique (13c.), from Late Latin diabolicus, from Ecclesiastical Greek diabolikos "devilish," from diabolos "the Devil, Satan" (see devil (n.)).
c. 1400, "possessed by a demon, insane," earlier (late 14c.) as a noun, demoniak, "one who is possessed, a lunatic," from Late Latin daemoniacus, from Greek daimoniakos "possessed by a demon," from diamon (see demon). From 1640s as "of or pertaining to demons or spirits;" by 1820 as "devilish." Related: Demoniacal; demoniacally.
1580s (implied in squandering), "to spend recklessly or prodigiously," of unknown origin; Shakespeare used it in "Merchant of Venice" (1593) with a sense of "to be scattered over a wide area." Squander-bug, a British symbol of reckless extravagance and waste during war-time shortages, represented as a devilish insect, was introduced 1943. In U.S., Louis Ludlow coined squanderlust (1935) for the tendency of government bureaucracies to spend much money.
late 14c., "of or pertaining to the underworld," (ancient Tartarus, the sunless abode of the dead, or the Christian Hell), from Old French enfernal, infernal "of Hell, hellish" (12c.), from Late Latin infernalis "of or belonging to the lower regions," from infernus "hell" (Ambrose), in classical Latin "the lower (world)," noun use of infernus "lower, lying beneath, underground, of the lower regions," from infra "below" (see infra-).
Pluto was infernus rex, and Latin inferi meant "the inhabitants of the infernal regions, the dead." Association of the word with fire and heat is via the Christian conception of Hell. Meaning "devilish, hateful" is from early 15c.; meaning "suitable for or appropriate to Hell" is from c. 1600. As a name of Hell, or a word for things which resemble it, the Italian form inferno has been used in English since 1834, via Dante. Related: Infernally.
late 14c., "objection, opposition; hostility, mutual opposition," also "absolute inconsistency," from Old French contradiction or directly from Late Latin contradictionem (nominative contradictio) "a reply, objection, counterargument," noun of action from past-participle stem of contradicere, in classical Latin contra dicere "to speak against, oppose in speech or opinion," from contra "against" (see contra) + dicere "to say, speak" (from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly"). Old English used wicwedennis as a loan-translation of Latin contradictio.
Meaning "an assertion of the direct opposite of what has been said or affirmed" is from c. 1400. Sense of "a contradictory fact or condition" is from 1610s. Contradiction in terms "self-contradictory phrase" is attested from 1705.
[C]ontradictions become elegance and propriety of language, for a thing may be excessively moderate, vastly little, monstrous pretty, wondrous common, prodigious natural, or devilish godly .... [Abraham Tucker, "The Light of Nature Pursued," 1805]
Meaning "of great quality or number" is from 1811; hence the colloquial sense of "exceedingly, extremely" (adv.) is from 1822. Thornton ("American Glossary") notes powerful, along with monstrous, as "Much used by common people in the sense of very," and cites curious expressions such as devilish good, monstrous pretty (1799), dreadful polite, cruel pretty, abominable fine (1803), "or when a young lady admires a lap dog for being so vastly small and declares him prodigious handsome" (1799).
This gross perversion is common in several of the Western counties of Pennsylvania, to which region I had supposed it was limited. A gentleman informs me, however that it is not unfrequent in the South, and that he has even heard it yoked with weak, as, A powerful weak man. [Seth T. Hurd, "A Grammatical Corrector; or, Vocabulary of the Common Errors of Speech," 1847]
Related: Powerfully; powerfulness.