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the villain of the piece

The person or thing most responsible or at fault for a bad situation or outcome. The company's safety supervisor cut corners on expensive safety equipment, but the real villains of the piece are the executives of the company who demanded that he keep costs down by any means necessary. Though they thought he'd left the gas oven on, it turns out that a faulty gas line was the villain of the piece.
See also: of, piece, villain
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

villain of the piece

Fig. someone or something that is responsible for something bad or wrong. (Fig. on the villainous role in a drama.) I wonder who told the newspapers about the local scandal. I discovered that Jane was the villain of the piece. We couldn't think who had stolen the meat. The dog next door turned out to be the villain of the piece.
See also: of, piece, villain
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

villain of the piece, the

The person to blame for what is bad or wrong, as in I'm afraid the caterer is the villain of the piece-the food wasn't ready for hours. The piece in this term alludes to a play in which the villain is the character whose evildoing is important to the plot. [Mid-1800s]
See also: of, villain
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

the villain of the piece

COMMON If you describe someone as the villain of the piece, you mean that they are responsible for all the trouble or all the problems in a situation. The real villains of the piece are the motor manufacturers. In a country where the top speed limit is 70mph, why do they make 140mph cars? If he is indeed the villain of the piece, as the police claim he is, he should have been more carefully watched. Note: In this expression, the `piece' is a play.
See also: of, piece, villain
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

the villain of the piece

the main culprit.
1928 P. G. Wodehouse Money for Nothing I'm sure you're on the right track. This bird Twist is the villain of the piece.
See also: of, piece, villain
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

the ˈvillain of the piece

(especially humorous) a person or thing that is responsible for a particular problem, difficulty, etc: Nicolette’s the villain of the piece, since she’s the person who started all this trouble.
The villain is the principal evil character in a book, a play, etc.
See also: of, piece, villain
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in periodicals archive ?
Some of the liked characters participants chose included Superman and Batman as heroes, Deadpool, and Batman as morally ambiguous characters and The Joker and Voldemort as villains.
Tom Hardy would have been a much better Bond villain.
He would also form his own Avengers comprised of villains posing as heroes, which could make for an interesting few films.
Branagh said Daniel Craig's Bond villains have been "Shakespearean".
'Like Kobe said, sometimes you have to embrace being the villain.' Winter Villains' new album Once There Were Sparks, Now There Are Ashes is out on May 11 on Owlet Music.
But beware - once Epic Hero Cards are in play, then the GM may play Epic Villain Cards.
The game, continues to lead and evolve the category with Skylanders Trap Team by letting fans seek out and defeat the most wanted villains in all of Skylands, pull them out of the game and into living rooms by capturing them in magical Traps.
Although Cibber's point is valid in that ugly actors do not often play heroes, on the other hand, performers of villains were not always ugly.
So, as TV's Nastiest Villains counts down those actors that are the best at being the worst, there won't be any surprise to find C5 favourites Stefan Dennis and Linda Gray here, giving their opinion on the likes of much missed Dallas bad guy JR Ewing (aka Larry Hagman), and Neighbours's love-to-hate villain Paul Robinson.
Stars of thriller 'Ek Villain' talk about the evolving shades of grey in movies
Two years ago it was giants, last year it was swapping hero parts, and this year it's capturing the game's most dastardly villains and getting them to work for you.
Hitchcock's villains; murderers, maniacs, and mother issues.