From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Benevolent \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. -- Be*nev"o*lent*ly, adv.
   [1913 Webster]

   Syn: Benevolent, Beneficent.

   Usage: 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.
          [1913 Webster]
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