mal·​aise | \ mə-ˈlāz How to pronounce malaise (audio) , ma-, -ˈlez How to pronounce malaise (audio) \

Definition of malaise

1 : an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness An infected person will feel a general malaise.
2 : a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being a malaise of cynicism and despair— Malcolm Boyd

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Did You Know?

Malaise, which ultimately traces back to Old French, has been part of English since the mid-18th century. One of its most notable uses, however, came in 1979 - well, sort of. President Jimmy Carter never actually used the word in his July 15 televised address, but it became known as the malaise speech all the same. In the speech, Carter described the U.S. as a nation facing a crisis of confidence and rife with paralysis and stagnation and drift. He spoke of a national malaise a few days later, and it's not hard to see why the malaise name stuck. The speech was praised by some and criticized by many others, but whatever your politics, it remains a vivid illustration of the meaning of malaise.

Examples of malaise in a Sentence

The symptoms include headache, malaise, and fatigue. An infected person will feel a general malaise. The country's current economic problems are symptoms of a deeper malaise.
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Recent Examples on the Web That’s a broader trend that reflects worrying signals of nascent economic malaise. oregonlive, "Oregon Insight: Coronavirus recession is state’s steepest and deepest – yet not nearly as bad as feared," 21 Mar. 2021 Interpreted as a fever by Western medicine, the malaise in question is the physical manifestation of a hankering to return home. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Brazilian drama ‘The Fever’ reveals an Indigenous man’s yearning for a return to nature," 18 Mar. 2021 But its characters try to alleviate pandemic malaise with an online séance that works a little too well, and summons something spooky that starts picking them off, one by one, until the surviving characters are cut off by the call limit expiring. Alison Willmore, Vulture, "A Year of Watching Movies About Being Stuck at Home (While Being Stuck at Home)," 17 Mar. 2021 But while the virus lingered, the market malaise did not. NBC News, "Black Monday: A year after historic market rout, Wall Street reflects on what it got right — and wrong," 16 Mar. 2021 Before the pandemic, the malaise that defined our culture was periodically broken by huge protests, acts of physical solidarity. New York Times, "How Nothingness Became Everything We Wanted," 19 Jan. 2021 The frustration with Big Tech is part of a wider malaise in China. New York Times, "China’s Jaded Techies Find a Hero in Elon Musk," 11 Mar. 2021 The pandemic, low oil prices and tensions between Iran and the United States all add to its malaise. Saphora Smith, NBC News, "Pope Francis heads to Iraq hoping landmark trip can ease Muslim-Christian tensions," 4 Mar. 2021 Carton's play in the second half helped shake MU out of its malaise. Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Marquette 77, DePaul 71: D.J. Carton helps grind out victory," 2 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'malaise.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of malaise

1768, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for malaise

French malaise, from Old French, from mal- + aise comfort — more at ease

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Time Traveler for malaise

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The first known use of malaise was in 1768

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Last Updated

16 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Malaise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for malaise



English Language Learners Definition of malaise

medical : a slight or general feeling of not being healthy or happy
: a problem or condition that harms or weakens a group, society, etc.


mal·​aise | \ mə-ˈlāz How to pronounce malaise (audio) , ma- How to pronounce malaise (audio) , -ˈlez \

Medical Definition of malaise

: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness fever, malaise, and other flu-like symptoms— Larry Thompson

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