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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"difficult woman," 1840, from she + devil (n.).


n. 1 A woman whose bad temper, cruelty or wicked ways are so extreme as to evoke an image of the devil. 2 (context literally English) A female devil (versus a he-devil, male devil).


n. a cruel woman


She-Devil is a 1989 American black comedy film directed by Susan Seidelman and written by Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns. It stars Meryl Streep, Ed Begley, Jr., and Roseanne Barr in her film debut. A loose adaptation of the 1983 novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by British writer Fay Weldon, She-Devil tells the story of Ruth Patchett, a dumpy, overweight housewife who exacts devilish revenge on her philandering husband after he leaves her and their children for glamorous, best-selling romance novelist Mary Fisher.

The second adaption of Weldon's novel after a BBC TV mini series was first broadcast in 1986, the film was shot amid the first season break of Barr's highly successful ABC sitcom Roseanne in New York City throughout spring and summer 1989. For a while, Streep, who was one of the first actresses to read the script, considered taking the part of Ruth herself but later opted to play Fisher instead as she felt she had dealt with a similar subject in her previous film Evil Angels (1988).

Produced by Orion Pictures, She-Devil was released on December 8, 1989, and grossed $15.5 million at the box office. Critics praised both Barr and Streep's performances but criticized the film for its tone. Streep earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy the following year.

Usage examples of "she-devil".

         Already by the second story featuring her ("The Song of Red Sonja," in Conan #24, which won the comicbook industry's own Academy Award for 1972), I had begun to see certain divergences from the original, such as (I like to think) Howard himself might have done if he'd decided to bring his red-tressed she-devil into the Hyborian Age.

This was the mad villain who'd kidnapped me to the Slave Coast on his hell-ship in '48 (on my own father-in-law's orders, too), and perforce I'd run black ivory with him, and fled from she-devil Amazons, and been hunted the length of the Mississippi, and lied truth out of Louisiana to keep both our necks out of a noose.

It is the work of the Duke of Burgundy and that she-devil, the Queen of France.

The last thing I remember was when I was all worked up trying to tell you what that she-devil is.

Asmodeus observed from his throne of linked, living she-devils, and meant it.