International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
vil, vil'-an-i: The original words for "vile" and "villany" are used in about 10 different senses, e.g. despised (1 Samuel 15:9), despicable (Daniel 11:21 the King James Version), lightly esteemed (Deuteronomy 25:3), empty (Judges 19:24 the King James Version), foolish (Isaiah 32:6, the King James Version and the English Revised Version), dishonorable (Romans 1:26), filthy or dirty (James 2:2), humiliation (Philippians 3:21).
Villany occurs but twice in the King James Version (Isaiah 32:6 Jeremiah 29:23), and signifies emptiness or folly (so the Revised Version (British and American)). From the foregoing meanings it will be seen that the word "vile" does not always bear the meaning which has come to be invariably given it in our present-day speech. Anything common or ordinary or humble might, in the Scriptural sense, be termed "vile." So Job 40:4, the Revised Version (British and American) "Behold, I am of small account"; also "the low estate of his handmaid" (Luke 1:48). Ordinarily, however, the idea of contemptible, despicable, is read into the word.