From the second edition (1989):
(ˈvaɪələns) Also 4 uiolence, 4–6 vyolence, 5 Sc. wyol-, wiolence, 5–6 violens (7 voyolence). [a. AF. and OF. (also mod.F.) violence, ad. L. violentia vehemence, impetuosity, etc., f. violentus violent a. Cf. Pr. violensa, -ansa, Sp. and Pg. violencia, It. violenza.]
1. a. The exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury on, or cause damage to, persons or property; action or conduct characterized by this; treatment or usage tending to cause bodily injury or forcibly interfering with personal freedom.
c1290 Beket 932 in S. Eng. Leg. I. 133 Ȝif ani man hond on ov set, ich ov hote al-so Þat ȝe þe sentence of holi churche, for swuche violence ȝe do. 1303 R. Brunne Handl. Synne 11142 Clerk to bete, or handes on ley yn vyolence, hyt ys grete eye. c1340 Hampole Pr. Consc. 1175 Þe world es‥a sted of mykel wrechednes,‥Of filthe and of corrupcion, Of violence and of oppression. c1380 Wyclif Wks. (1880) 161 Þei holden neuer neiþer lawe of god in dymes takynge, & taken hem bi vyolence & stronge curses aȝenst mennus goode wille. c1420 Prymer 74 Lord! y suffre violence; answere þou for me! ?a1445 ? Gascoign Life St. Bridget in New Leg. England (Pynson) 123 When ye cytezens sawe yt by prayers they profyted nat, somwhat with vyolence, neuerthelesse reuerently they ledde hir out of hir house vnto the watersyde. 1504 W. Atkynson tr. De Imitatione i. xxiv. 174 They that by vyolence restrayne theyr selfe fro synne and euer be busy to make the bodye obedyent to the soule. 1560 J. Daus tr. Sleidane's Comm. 38 Then might they also be in the more hope to give the repulse to the Turke, with all his violence. a1596 Sir T. More ii. iii. 14 They intend to offer violence To the amazed Lombards. 1617 Moryson Itin. iii. 47 Charles the fifth‥was wont to say, that the King of Spaine ruled over Asses, doing nothing without blowes and violence. 1651 Hobbes Leviath. ii. xx. 102 Promises proceeding from fear of death, or violence, are no Covenants. 1718 Free-thinker No. 58. 20 Almost all the Governments‥had their Commencement in Violence. 1759 Johnson Rasselas xxxvii[i], The violence of war admits of no distinction. 1784 Cowper Task i. 604 In remote And barb'rous climes, where violence prevails, And strength is lord of all. 1844 H. H. Wilson Brit. India III. 524 The Government‥protected them against the perils of violence and rapacity, and ensured them tranquillity and repose. 1876 J. S. Bristowe Theory & Pract. Med. (1878) 532 It occasionally originates‥in the effects of very violent muscular exertion or of violence inflicted from without.
personif. 1609 Dekker Work Armorours Wks. (Grosart) IV. 131 Violence hath borne many great offices, and Money hath done much for him. 1787 Burns Death R. Dundas v, Mark ruffian Violence, ingrain'd with crimes, Rousing elate in these degenerate times.
b. In the phr. to do violence to, unto (or with indirect object): To inflict harm or injury upon; to outrage or violate. †Also to make violence.
a1300 Cursor M. 19325 Þai durst na uiolence to þam do For þe folk þam helded to. 13‥ E.E. Allit. P. B. 1071 When venkkyst was no vergynyte, ne vyolence maked. 1390 Gower Conf. III. 340 He telleth hem the violence, Which the tretour Strangulio And Dionise him hadde do. 1535 Coverdale Luke iii. 14 Do no man violence ner wronge. 1594 Kyd Cornelia iv. i. 28 Iuba and Petreus, fiercely combatting, Haue each done other equall violence. 1602 Shakes. Ham. i. ii. 171 Nor shall you doe mine eare that violence, To make it truster of your owne report Against your selfe. a1619 Fletcher, etc. Knt. Malta v. ii, They have done violence unto her Tomb, Not granting rest unto her in the grave. 1692 Dryden St. Euremont's Ess. 93, I make no question, but that in the violence of the Triumvirate, he did much Violence to himself. 1749 Fielding Tom Jones xii. iii, To say the truth, we have‥often done great violence to the luxuriance of our genius. 1860 Pusey Min. Proph. 474 They did violence to the majesty of the law,‥and then, through profaning it, did violence to man.
c. In weakened sense: Improper treatment or use of a word; wresting or perversion of meaning or application; unauthorized alteration of wording.
1596 Lambarde Peramb. Kent (ed. 2) 143 But Master Camden with lesse violence‥deriueth it [sc. dele] from the Bryttish Dole. 1659 Pearson Creed ii. 294 Being in some places Adonai cannot be read for Jehovah, without manifest violence offered to the Text. 1662 Evelyn Chalcogr. 7 Neither the Paradigmatic‥or any of the Plastic can be call'd Sculpture without a Catachresis and some Violence. 1749 Fielding Tom Jones iv. vi, A passion which might without any great violence to the word, be called love. 1856 Maurice Gosp. St. John vii. 94 Wherever violence is done to the truth of language, I believe more or less of violence is done to some higher truth. 1861 Paley Æschylus (ed. 2) Supplices 510 note, But this is a reckless alteration. He might with less violence have written πατρὸς. 1875 E. White Life in Christ iv. xxvii. (1878) 446 The violence of the proposed interpretation is‥conspicuous.
d. Undue constraint applied to some natural process, habit, etc., so as to prevent its free development or exercise. Now used in political contexts with varying degrees of appropriateness.
1715 tr. Gregory's Astron. (1726) I. 200 We must‥not make our Reason and Philosophy perpetually offer violence to our Sight and other Senses. 1749 Fielding Tom Jones vi. iv, He was obliged to attend near a quarter of an hour, though with great violence to his natural impetuosity, before he was suffered to speak. 1847 J. Yeowell Anc. Brit. Ch. ix. 93 The first Christian missionaries in Ireland seem to have carefully avoided all unnecessary violence to the ancient habits of the aborigines. 1972 Science 23 June 1300/3 It is interesting that 58 percent of American men think that burning a draft card is violence, in and of itself; 38 percent think student protest is violence; and 22 percent feel sit-ins are violence. Clearly, many Americans consider acts of dissent, per se, to be violent. Ibid. 1301/1 Only 35 percent of American men define ‘police shooting looters’ as violence and only 56 percent define ‘police beating students’ in this manner. 1984 Times 2 July 1/8 Mr Scargill‥said: ‘‥My facts show to me‥that the people guilty of intimidation and violence in this dispute have been the police.’ 1984 Daily Telegraph 5 Oct. 20/2 [At the Labour Party Conference] much violence was done to the word violence, which it appears can be used to describe almost anything you do not care for.
e. Law. (See quot.)
1867 Smyth Sailor's Word-bk. 713 Violence, the question in tort, as to the amount of liability incurred by the owners for outrages and irregularities committed by the master.
2. a. With a and pl. An instance or case of violent, injurious, or severe treatment; a violent act or proceeding.
c1375 Sc. Leg. Saints xxxiv. (Pelagia) 234 Þe feynde‥can cry,‥‘Alace! I thole but defence of hyme þis ald gret wyolence. 1390 Gower Conf. III. 208 The tidinge of this violence‥Sche sende anon ay wydewhere To suche frendes as sche hadde. 1435 Misyn Fire of Love ii. vii. 86 Well þis is cald a rauischynge als þe todyr, for with a violens it is doyne & als wer agayns kynde. 1508 Dunbar Gold. Targe 159 Curage in thame was noucht begonne to spring; Full sore thay dred to done a violence. 1596 Spenser State Irel. 510b, She perhaps, for very compassion of such calamities, will not only stop the stream of such violences, and return to her wonted mildness, but [etc.]. 1649 Milton Eikon. Pref., A tedious‥warr on his subjects, wherein he hath so farr exceeded his arbitrary violences in time of peace. 1682 Burnet Rights Princes ii. 64 He laments the Violences that were used in some Elections. 1704 Col. Rec. Pennsylv. II. 191 If they were clear of the violences done lately upon a family of the English. 1759 H. Walpole Let. to G. Montagu 23 Dec., Has your brother told you of the violences in Ireland? 1818 Cobbett Pol. Reg. XXXIII. 12 They saw nothing but the violences on Sir Francis's side. 1850 Kingsley A. Locke Pref., If the violences and tyrannies of American Democracy are to be really warnings to us [etc.]. 1864 Maine Anc. Law vi. (1870) 206 The violences inseparable from the best-ordered ancient society.
b. In weakened sense (cf. 1c and 1d).
1706 Estcourt Fair Example iv. i, I yielded to the Intreaty of my Friends, Acted a violence on my reluctant Heart, And gave my trembling Hand‥to Another. 1777 Hume Ess. & Treat. I. 184 If he have but resolution enough‥to impose a violence on himself. 1793 Smeaton Edystone L. §119 It would yet be a violence to myself, to refrain from doing the Proprietors justice. 1818 Cruise Digest (ed. 2) IV. 371 Then a violence would be offered, as well to the words, as to the meaning of the party.
3. Force or strength of physical action or natural agents; forcible, powerful, or violent action or motion (in early use freq. connoting destructive force or capacity).
Now often merging into next, with an intensive sense.
c1384 Chaucer H. Fame ii. 775 For whan a pipe is blowen sharpe, The aire ys twyst with violence. c1386 —— Can. Yeom. Prol. & T. 355 Thise metals been of so gret violence, Oure walles mowe nat make hem resistence. c1400 Mandeville (Roxb.) xxxiii. 151 Sum ware drouned by violence of þe wawes. 1426 Lydg. De Guil. Pilgr. 12210, I‥sawh a whel‥By vyolence tourne aboute Contynuelly to-for my face. 1560 J. Daus tr. Sleidane's Comm. 414b, Than chiefly was the citie meruelouslye beaten with shot, the violence wherof was so great, that [etc.]. 1603 Shakes. Meas. for M. iii. i. 125 To be imprison'd in the viewlesse windes, And blowne with restlesse violence round about. 1610 Holland Camden's Brit. 513 The river Aufon‥breaketh forth with more violence upon the flats adioyning. 1659 J. Leak Water-wks. 1 To make the Water enter therein with force,‥the vessel‥shall be made as high as may be, that it may give so much the more violence to the Water. 1703 Moxon Mech. Exerc. 84 The shorter the Stuff that the Tennant is made on, the less Violence the Tennant is subject to. 1793 Smeaton Edystone L. §61 note, The strokes of the sea may at the Edystone be so great as to wash the poison out again from the wood, that in a situation of less violence could‥slowly insinuate itself. 1841 Lane Arab. Nts. I. 104 He knocked a fourth time, and with violence. 1862 Darwin Fertil. Orchids ii. 57 The pollinia cannot be jarred out of the anther-cells by violence. 1895 Law Times Rep. LXXIII. 156/2 Two vessels‥drifted through the violence of a storm on to the toe of a breakwater.
4. a. Great force, severity, or vehemence; intensity of some condition or influence.
1390 Gower Conf. I. 280 Wrathe‥ Which hath hise wordes ay so hote, That all a mannes pacience Is fyred of the violence. c1400 Mandeville (Roxb.) xv. 70 Oft tymes he fell by violence of þat sekeness. Ibid. xviii. 81 Þe grete violence of hete þat dissoluez þaire bodys. 1577 Googe Heresbach's Husb. 28 Rye‥suffereth the violence of mystes and frostes. 1604 E. G[rimstone] D'Acosta's Hist. Indies ii. x. 103 Arabia, the which is burnt with the Sunne, having no showres to temper the violence thereof. 1658 Phillips s.v. Intercident, An extraordinary critical day,‥being caused by the violence of the disease. 1702 J. Purcell Cholick (1714) 137 If an Inflammation arises,‥Bleeding is to be order'd, and repeated according to its Violence. 1794 Mrs. Radcliffe Myst. Udolpho xli, She went off as peacefully as a child, for all the violence of her disorder was passed. 1809 Med. Jrnl. XXI. 518 The inflammatory complaints, particularly pneumonia, have recurred with considerable violence. 1874 J. L. Patterson Ess. Relig. & Lit. 3rd Ser. 134 It is yet obvious that‥these laws apply with a far different and more grievous violence to the Catholic, than to any other‥Church.
b. Intensity or excess of contrast.
1874 H. H. Cole Catal. Ind. Art S. Kens. Mus. 218 Violence of contrast either of light or dark colours, or gaudy, florid, and large ornament are among the common sources of error which ruin design.
5. Vehemence of personal feeling or action; great, excessive, or extreme ardour or fervour; also, violent or passionate conduct or language; passion, fury.
c1430 Lydg. Min. Poems (Percy Soc.) 47 But arche wives, egre in ther vyolence, Fers as tygres for to make affray. 1563 Golding Cæsar (1565) 119 The enemy being not able to withstand the violence of oure fotemen,‥toke them to flyght. 1604 Shakes. Oth. ii. i. 224 Marke me with what violence she first lou'd the Moore. 1654 Nicholas Papers (Camden) II. 84, I was trubled to see the violence it putt him into. 1696 Phillips (ed. 5), Violence,‥figuratively spoken of Human Passions and Designs, when unruly, and not to be govern'd. 1735 Somerville Chace iii. 544 He vents the cooling Stream, and up the Breeze Urges his Course with eager Violence. 1818 Coleridge Friend (1865) 142 To expect that the violence of party spirit is never more to return. 1821 Scott Kenilw. xxxii, I said nothing to deserve such a horrid imputation as your violence infers. 1841 Elphinstone Hist. Ind. II. 321 It was concluded by Akber's reproving the mullahs for their violence.
†6. Violation of some condition. Obs.—1
a1754 Fielding Remedy Afflict. Wks. 1775 IX. 251 Nor is there any dissuasive from such contemplation [of the loss of friends]: it is no breach of friendship, nor violence of paternal fondness.