mal·​ice | \ˈma-ləs \

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

Bolanos previously said Johnson’s attorneys failed to show Monsanto executives acted with malice, which is required for punitive damages. Paul Elias, The Seattle Times, "Monsanto weed killer ruling is 1st step in long legal battle," 23 Oct. 2018 Renacci acted with actual malice and is thus responsible for punitive damages. Fox News, "Trump-endorsed Ohio Senate candidate responds to million-dollar lawsuit filed by opponent," 7 May 2018 For example, his 2006 lawsuit against Fantagraphics, a vital independent publisher specializing in graphic novels, seems to have been frivolous and motivated by personal malice. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Harlan Ellison’s Death Raises a #MeToo Quandary," 2 July 2018 They are charged with malice, felony and second-degree murder, the newspaper reported. Steve Burns, ajc, "Second man arrested in Athens shooting death," 20 June 2018 Jurors on Thursday awarded $4 million in punitive damages after finding that Johnson & Johnson acted with ‘‘malice, oppression or fraud.’’ A day earlier the panel ordered $21.7 million in compensatory damages for plaintiff Joanne Anderson., "N.H. panel upholds denial of Northern Pass project," 25 May 2018 Jurors in Los Angeles recommended $4 million in punitive damages Thursday after finding the company acted with malice, oppression or fraud. Christopher Weber, USA TODAY, "California jury recommends $25M in Johnson & Johnson baby powder lawsuit," 25 May 2018 But the allegations were undoubtedly made out of malice. Michael Mccann,, "Could Gareon Conley Legally Prove That Rape Allegation Caused Draft Slide, Financial Harm?," 12 July 2018 Riki Albury, who has a Jonesboro address, is charged with malice murder in the June 28 death of Ronald Thomas-Roach. Joshua Sharpe, ajc, "DeKalb teen stabbed man more than 30 times, killing him, cops say," 12 July 2018

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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Statistics for malice

Last Updated

27 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for malice

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

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More Definitions for malice



English Language Learners Definition of malice

: a desire to cause harm to another person


mal·​ice | \ˈma-ləs \

Kids Definition of malice

: a desire to cause harm to another person


mal·​ice | \ˈma-ləs \

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

b : reckless disregard of the truth — see also public figure, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan

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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More from Merriam-Webster on malice

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with malice

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for malice

Spanish Central: Translation of malice

Nglish: Translation of malice for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of malice for Arabic Speakers

Comments on malice

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


a knickknack or trinket

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