noun mal·ice \ˈma-ləs\

Definition of malice

  1. 1 :  desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another an attack motivated by pure malice

  2. 2 :  intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse ruined her reputation and did it with malice

Examples of malice in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. an attack motivated by pure malice

  6. She claimed that her criticisms were without malice.

Origin and Etymology of malice

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

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of 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

MALICE Defined for English Language Learners


noun mal·ice \ˈma-ləs\

Definition of malice for English Language Learners

  • : a desire to cause harm to another person

MALICE Defined for Kids


noun mal·ice \ˈma-ləs\

Definition of malice for Students

  1. :  a desire to cause harm to another person

Law Dictionary


noun mal·ice \ˈma-ləs\

Legal Definition of malice

  1. 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 2 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 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 1 in this entry malice in law :  implied malice in this entry

  2. 2 :  feelings of ill will, spite, or revenge

Additional Notes on malice

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

Seen and Heard

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to criticize severely

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