English has lots of words to describe the horrid things people do to one another. The prefix mal-, meaning bad or evil (also faulty, unpleasant, or not), heads up plenty of those words. Mal- comes from the Old French mal, meaning “evil, ill, wrong, wrongly.” Says Online Etymology Dictionary, “Most Mod.Eng. words with this prefix are 19c. coinages (malnutrition, malodorous, etc.).” Let’s take a look at a few.
- malefactor, noun: criminal, evildoer.
When toxins pop up in the food supply and kill people, here, too, the search for a malefactor aligns with the public interest. —Huffington Post
- malevolent, adjective: having an ill will toward others.
But he was the figurehead of a malevolent force in the world that seeks only death and misery. —Suburban Life Publications
- malign, verb: to speak evil things about someone.
Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been fighting to get justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots, said there has been a systematic attempt to malign her efforts for the last nine years. —Gulf News
- malfeasance, noun: illegal acts or wrongdoing by public official.
Wisconsin’s malfeasance was unrelated to deficits; it was union busting. Period. —Billings Gazette
- malicious, adjective: spiteful, full of harm for others.
Five people were charged with malicious burning and other charges are pending. –WBOY-TV
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