ma·​lef·​i·​cence | \ mə-ˈle-fə-sən(t)s How to pronounce maleficence (audio) \

Definition of maleficence

1a : the act of committing harm or evil
b : a harmful or evil act
2 : the quality or state of being maleficent

Examples of maleficence in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Much of Christie’s unwaning appeal relies on incongruity—maleficence emerging in the most genteel of contexts, like strychnine in the tea—whereas the Thrombeys make no pretense of decency. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Pastiche and Politics in “Knives Out”," 22 Nov. 2019 Those opposed argue that helping a patient take her own life profoundly violates the principle of non-maleficence or avoiding harm. Sarah C. Hull, STAT, "Not so conscientious objection: When can doctors refuse to treat?," 8 Nov. 2019 Johnson’s is a quest for the holy under heaven, in a wilderness that has been degraded by the maleficence of God and man. William Giraldi, The Seattle Times, "Denis Johnson’s posthumous story collection is a thrilling gift from the grave," 4 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'maleficence.' 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 maleficence

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for maleficence

Italian maleficenza, from Latin maleficentia, from maleficus

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Time Traveler for maleficence

Time Traveler

The first known use of maleficence was in 1598

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Cite this Entry

“Maleficence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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