Be*nev"o*lent (?), a. [L. benevolens, -entis; bene well (adv. of bonus good) + volens, p. pr. of volo I will, I wish. See Bounty, and Voluntary.]
Having a disposition to do good; possessing or manifesting love to mankind, and a desire to promote their prosperity and happiness; disposed to give to good objects; kind; charitable.
Syn. -- Benevolent, Beneficent. Etymologically considered, benevolent implies wishing well to others, and beneficent, doing well. But by degrees the word benevolent has been widened to include not only feelings, but actions; thus, we speak of benevolent operations, benevolent labors for the public good, benevolent societies. In like manner, beneficent is now often applied to feelings; thus, we speak of the beneficent intentions of a donor. This extension of the terms enables us to mark nicer shades of meaning. Thus, the phrase "benevolent labors" turns attention to the source of these labors, viz., benevolent feeling; while beneficent would simply mark them as productive of good. So, "beneficent intentions" point to the feelings of the donor as bent upon some specific good act; while "benevolent intentions" would only denote a general wish and design to do good.
© Webster 1913.