malevolent

adjective
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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

There was some good news this week for those of us who worry that the human race is descending into a technological dystopia in which our every move is tracked, cataloged and eventually used against us by vast, malevolent forces. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "Technology Isn’t a Force for Liberation After All," 12 Apr. 2019 Which is why malevolent actors continue to game the platforms and why there’s still no real solution in sight anytime soon, because they were built to work exactly this way. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Fake news evolved into fake events, and the consequences are scary," 3 Aug. 2018 In service of this aim, the book touches on subjects as varied as the history of rock ’n’ roll, the popularity of American football, the odds of humans developing a malevolent AI, and the soundness of our theory of gravity. Vox Staff, Vox, "The most thought-provoking books the Vox staff read in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 But there is also a strange malevolent presence on board, sensed by the team's telepath. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Nightflyers has the bloody body count we expect from George R.R. Martin," 29 Nov. 2018 Yes, the new Netflix show features the same characters as the cheery ‘90s sitcom, but it has been updated to reflect our darker, more malevolent times. Taylor Crumpton, Teen Vogue, "How "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" Failed Prudence Night," 1 Nov. 2018 Takes Kara Swisher tells Twitter to ban Alex Jones: Values would require that Twitter make tough calls on high-profile and obviously malevolent figures, including tossing them off as a signal of its intent to keep it civil. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Twitter’s case for keeping Alex Jones is falling apart," 10 Aug. 2018 In popular culture as well as the gaming and fantasy world, rogues are often characterized by quick wit or malevolent silence, cunning and charisma, deft hands and fast feet, and skill with sharp objects. Patricia Grisafi, SELF, "When I’m Gaming, I Can Stop Being a People Pleaser and Embrace My Anger," 1 Nov. 2018 There are the witches, too, and werewolves made familiar by the mystery writer Tony Hillerman’s best sellers: malevolent spirits that old-time locals treat as a fact of life. Guy Trebay, Condé Nast Traveler, "In the Heart of Navajo Lands," 19 Oct. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about malevolent

Statistics for malevolent

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for malevolent

The first known use of malevolent was in 1509

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for malevolent

malevolent

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of malevolent

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

malevolent

adjective
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on malevolent

What made you want to look up malevolent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

having no equal

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!