ma·​lev·​o·​lent | \ mə-ˈle-və-lənt How to pronounce malevolent (audio) \

Definition of malevolent

1 : having, showing, or arising from intense often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred
2 : productive of harm or evil

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Other Words from malevolent

malevolently adverb

On the Origin of Malevolent

That malevolent begins with male- does not imply any connection with gender. The word's initial component comes ultimately from the Latin adverb male "badly"; English male "a man or a boy," by contrast, descends from the unrelated Latin noun masculus "male." Malevolent was taken into English directly from the Latin malevolens "ill-disposed, spiteful," which paired male with volens, the present participle of a verb meaning "to wish." In Latin, the combination literally meant "wishing ill." The "wishing" component of malevolent may also be found in its antonym benevolent "kind and generous" (from Latin benevolens, literally, "wishing well") and in a rare English word, somnivolency ("a sleep-inducing agent"), in which it is yoked with somni- "sleep" (from Latin somnus) in a compound literally meaning "inclination to sleep."

Examples of malevolent in a Sentence

There was no acknowledgment of the effects of cycle upon cycle of malevolent defeat, of the injury of seeing one generation rise above the cusp of poverty only to be indignantly crushed, of the impact of repeating tsunamis of violence … — Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name, 2008 The sky looks heavy enough to sink and crush us when we see another twister bullying across the fields—a squat, malevolent-looking wedge. — Priit J. Vesilind, National Geographic, April 2004 No bigger than most house cats, it is possessed of such formidable armor and malevolent mien that when the makers of the latest Godzilla epic went looking for a prototype, they selected this lizard … — Peter Benchley, National Geographic, April 1999 The predominant spirit is very un-American; a kind of malevolent, drifting determinism pervades human beings who cannot, or do not want to, cope. — John Fowles, Atlantic, August 1986 the novel grossly oversimplified the conflict as a struggle between relentlessly malevolent villains on one side and faultless saints on the other
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Recent Examples on the Web While Trump may be an especially malevolent symptom of today’s ills, the disease has been at work for years, weakening what were once healthy tissues of our body politic and inflaming its internal tensions. Washington Post, "They wanted to remake the world; instead we got President Trump," 10 Jan. 2020 For instance, the slippery Haunchies, a Midwest species of malevolent Hobbit known to chase away outsiders with clubs. Christopher Borrelli,, "Do you have a werewolf problem? Upright alligator? Cryptozoologist Linda Godfrey probably believes you," 24 July 2019 Another is the evil Mcavity, deliciously played by Idris Elba, sporting jade green eyes that give him a particularly malevolent look. Chuck Yarborough, cleveland, "‘Cats,’ with Judi Dench, Taylor Swift and ballerina Francesca Hayward, could be the pick of the litter for musicals," 18 Dec. 2019 Swatches of American prairie are inscribed with vast, circular dial patterns created by pivot irrigation machines that look strangely abstract, even malevolent. Steven Litt,, "Edward Burtynsky photos at Cleveland Museum of Art document mankind’s troubled relationship with water," 23 June 2019 As the young writer, Sentinel award-winning actor Andrew Romano shows intelligence and charm, both mischievous and malevolent, with equal skill. Matthew J. Palm,, "At Garden Theatre, aging ‘Deathtrap’ can still find the thrills | Review," 17 Oct. 2019 Ejiofor is angrier, more malevolent, and more terrifying than Irons, whose Scar has more charisma and more megalomania. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "The Lion King remake isn’t a better movie, but it did a few things better than the original.," 17 July 2019 The writers also avoided the usual malevolent female characters, like menacing matriarchs and tormenting stepsisters. New York Times, "Jennifer Lee, Queen of the ‘Frozen’ Franchise," 7 Nov. 2019 Deon, man of mystery, is a malevolent sprite, seeking revenge on those who have messed with his family. Christopher Arnott,, "Review: ‘Girls’ a mad, magnificent dance-club rave at Yale Rep," 11 Oct. 2019

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

1509, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for malevolent

Latin malevolent-, malevolens, from male badly + volent-, volens, present participle of velle to wish — more at mal-, will

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Time Traveler for malevolent

Time Traveler

The first known use of malevolent was in 1509

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Statistics for malevolent

Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Malevolent.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for malevolent


How to pronounce malevolent (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of malevolent

formal : having or showing a desire to cause harm to another person


ma·​lev·​o·​lent | \ mə-ˈle-və-lənt How to pronounce malevolent (audio) \

Kids Definition of malevolent

: having or showing a desire to cause harm to another person Christy and Megan … were whispering over on the other side of the room and casting malevolent looks in Mary Lou's direction.— Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

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Comments on malevolent

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to insert between existing elements

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