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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
See also:
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He played a vast range of roles - a hero, villain and character actor - but was best known for his bad guys, earning the honorific "Villain of the Millennium."