Origin of the word
In Medieval Latin, ‘vicium’ equates with the Latin ‘vitium’, meaning ‘imperfection, offence or defect’. By the 12th century, this had become vice in Old French and signalled a ‘misdemeanour or fault’. The meaning expanded to incorporate a ‘moral failing’ and even ‘wickedness’ by the 13th century (1) (2). The French also used the word vices to describe the seven deadly sins.
The noun vice, denoting a tool to hold something firmly (3), has been in use since the 15th century. The Middle English version was one with a winch or a screw action, suitable for bending a catapult or crossbow. In this case, the etymological origin was the Latin ‘viere’ meaning ‘to twist’ and the Old French ‘viz’ or ‘vis’ for ‘screw’.
“Speaking with our correspondent at the national secretariat of the corps in Abule Egba, Lagos, Joseph said a vice is a practice, behaviour or habit generally considered immoral or criminal that could lead to insurgent acts, but are often ignored.” Independent Newspapers. 26th October 2017: HARPAZO leader identifies religious vices in Nigeria.
“Coffee, cigarettes, chocolate and a glass or two of wine might sound like might sound like Keith Richard’s breakfast ingredients but they all feature in tonight’s show where the theme is vices.” BBC.19th January 2009: The Vice Squad (1).
“Unlike many of his jazz-player heroes, he claims to have few vices. He goes to bed early and rarely touches wine or even coffee. His drink of choice? He’s a self-described Smoothie King.” Vanity Fair. 30th October 2017: Jeff Goldblum is a jazz-playing Smoothie King devotee.
1. a bad habit or personal quality
2. extremely bad and immoral behaviour
3. a tool used for holding an object firmly while you are working with it