malice

noun
mal·​ice | \ ˈma-ləs How to pronounce malice (audio) \

Definition of malice

1 : desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another an attack motivated by pure malice
2 : intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse ruined her reputation and did it with malice

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Choose the Right Synonym for malice

malice, malevolence, ill will, spite, malignity, spleen, grudge mean the desire to see another experience pain, injury, or distress. malice implies a deep-seated often unexplainable desire to see another suffer. felt no malice toward their former enemies malevolence suggests a bitter persistent hatred that is likely to be expressed in malicious conduct. a look of dark malevolence ill will implies a feeling of antipathy of limited duration. ill will provoked by a careless remark spite implies petty feelings of envy and resentment that are often expressed in small harassments. petty insults inspired by spite malignity implies deep passion and relentlessness. a life consumed by motiveless malignity spleen suggests the wrathful release of latent spite or persistent malice. venting his spleen against politicians grudge implies a harbored feeling of resentment or ill will that seeks satisfaction. never one to harbor a grudge

Malicious, Malevolent, and Malice

Malicious and malevolent are close in meaning, since both refer to ill will that desires to see someone else suffer. But while malevolent suggests deep and lasting dislike, malicious usually means petty and spiteful. Malicious gossipers are often simply envious of a neighbor's good fortune. Vandals may take malicious pleasure in destroying and defacing property but usually don't truly hate the owners. Malice is an important legal concept, which has to be proved in order to convict someone of certain crimes such as first-degree murder.

Examples of malice in a Sentence

All of this is about control, of course. While nicknames can just as easily be dispensed with affection as with malice, either way the practice is as stone alpha male as social interaction gets. — Garry Trudeau, Time, 12 Feb. 2001 The killer that Capote himself became—far more efficiently than Perry and Dick—when, in poisonous prose and on talk-shows, he laid waste his friends and skewered his competitors with malice as pure as the air in an oxygen tent. — Molly Haskell, New York Times Book Review, 12 June 1988 It isn't so much courage that I would need, as the patience to endure the grinding malice of bureaucratic harassment. — Alice Walker, Living by the Word, 1981 No doubt his natural floridity of face encouraged whispers, and partisan malice exaggerated them; but during the eighteen-thirties he certainly drank enough to invite the solicitude of his friends and the gibes of his enemies. — Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson, 1946 an attack motivated by pure malice She claimed that her criticisms were without malice.
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Recent Examples on the Web Long is facing several charges, including malice murder and aggravated assault with intent to murder. Peter Aitken, Fox News, "Millions raised for Atlanta-area shooting victim's family as community shows support, mourns those lost," 22 Mar. 2021 The virus acts without malice, driven by a biological imperative. USA Today, "‘No one has been trained for this much death.’ In a COVID ICU, hospital workers struggle with trauma and grief.," 12 Mar. 2021 The landmark 1964 Supreme Court in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan held that for the press to be liable for defamation or libel, public figures must show a story was published with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth. Mark Dunphy, San Antonio Express-News, "'Bachelorette' alum from Texas threatens defamation suit after reports he attended Capitol riot," 6 Mar. 2021 Then there’s the predator who barely masks her malice. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Why Is Bad Girl Style So Good?," 19 Feb. 2021 It’s not nice when malice gets a final, unanswered shot. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "Rush Limbaugh’s Complicated Legacy," 18 Feb. 2021 The six protesters were charged by police with insulting or expressing malice toward the king in connection with a December protest at a Bangkok shopping mall. Star Tribune, "Popular Thai politician charged with defaming monarchy," 20 Jan. 2021 Tom Clare, an attorney for Dominion, said Monday the company is prepared to prove actual malice if necessary. Alexa Corse, WSJ, "Dominion Voting Systems Sues Rudy Giuliani Over Claims of Rigged Election," 25 Jan. 2021 The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Partner projects feelings of sadness on girlfriend, family," 16 Nov. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for malice

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin malitia, from malus bad

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Time Traveler for malice

Time Traveler

The first known use of malice was in the 14th century

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Statistics for malice

Last Updated

3 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Malice.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/malice. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for malice

malice

noun

English Language Learners Definition of malice

: a desire to cause harm to another person

malice

noun
mal·​ice | \ ˈma-ləs How to pronounce malice (audio) \

Kids Definition of malice

: a desire to cause harm to another person

malice

noun
mal·​ice | \ ˈma-ləs How to pronounce malice (audio) \

Legal Definition of malice

1a : the intention or desire to cause harm (as death, bodily injury, or property damage) to another through an unlawful or wrongful act without justification or excuse
b : wanton disregard for the rights of others or for the value of human life
c : an improper or evil motive or purpose if malice cannot be proved or a benign purpose can be imagined— David Kairys
d : actual malice in this entry
actual malice
1 : malice proved by evidence to exist or have existed in one that inflicts unjustified harm on another: as
a : an intent to injure or kill
b : malice sense 2

called also express malice, malice in fact

2a : the knowledge that defamatory statements especially regarding a public figure are false
implied malice
: malice inferred from the nature or consequences of a harmful act done without justification or excuse also : malice inferred from subjective awareness of duty or of the likely results of one's act

called also legal malice, malice in law

malice aforethought
: actual or implied malice existing in or attributed to the intention of one that injures or especially kills without justification or excuse and usually requiring some degree of deliberation or premeditation or wanton disregard for life murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethoughtCalifornia Penal Code
malice in fact
: actual malice in this entry
malice in law
: implied malice in this entry
2 : feelings of ill will, spite, or revenge

Note: Such feelings are usually not an important component of malice in legal consideration unless punitive damages or actual malice is an issue.

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Comments on malice

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