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ma·​lign mə-ˈlīn How to pronounce malign (audio)
: evil in nature, influence, or effect : injurious
the malign effects of illicit drugs
: malignant, virulent
a malign lesion
: having or showing intense often vicious ill will : malevolent
gave him a malign look
malignly adverb


2 of 2


maligned; maligning; maligns

transitive verb

: to utter injuriously misleading or false reports about : speak evil of
Her supporters say that she has been unfairly maligned in the press.

Did you know?

When a word's got mal- in it, it's no good. That prefix traces to the Latin word malus (which means "bad"), and it puts the negative vibes in both the verb and adjective forms of malign (from the Latin malignus, meaning "evil in nature") and a host of other English words. You can see it in malpractice (bad medical practice) and malady (a bad condition, such as a disease or illness, of the body or mind). A malefactor is someone guilty of bad deeds, and malice is a desire to cause injury, pain, or distress to another person. Other mal- formed words include malaise, malcontent, maladroit, malodorous, and malnourished.

Choose the Right Synonym for malign


sinister, baleful, malign mean seriously threatening evil or disaster.

sinister suggests a general or vague feeling of fear or apprehension on the part of the observer.

a sinister aura haunts the place

baleful imputes perniciousness or destructiveness to something whether working openly or covertly.

exerting a corrupt and baleful influence

malign applies to what is inherently evil or harmful.

the malign effects of racism


malign, traduce, asperse, vilify, calumniate, defame, slander mean to injure by speaking ill of.

malign suggests specific and often subtle misrepresentation but may not always imply deliberate lying.

the most maligned monarch in British history

traduce stresses the resulting ignominy and distress to the victim.

so traduced the governor that he was driven from office

asperse implies continued attack on a reputation often by indirect or insinuated detraction.

both candidates aspersed the other's motives

vilify implies attempting to destroy a reputation by open and direct abuse.

no criminal was more vilified in the press

calumniate imputes malice to the speaker and falsity to the assertions.

falsely calumniated as a traitor

defame stresses the actual loss of or injury to one's good name.

sued them for defaming her reputation

slander stresses the suffering of the victim.

town gossips slandered their good name

Examples of malign in a Sentence

Adjective both parties to the divorce showed a malign desire to make each other's future life utterly miserable Verb Her supporters say she is being unfairly maligned in the press. a candidate who believes that it is possible to win an election without maligning anyone
Recent Examples on the Web
This is the president who spent his first year in office delaying missile tests so as not to provoke Russia, and who couldn’t bring himself to kill a malign Russian pipeline project that would have put a noose around Ukraine’s stability and security. The Editors, National Review, 10 Nov. 2023 In the context of Oxford in the early 1980s, that meant arguing that American influence on the world was not entirely malign. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 12 Sep. 2023 As if in a malign fairy tale, Gilly basically conjures disaster. Willing Davidson, The New Yorker, 23 Jan. 2023 Myrna also finds her personal space infiltrated by a malign presence. Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post, 2 Dec. 2022 The Trump administration argued that the sunset provisions were a fatal flaw to the agreement and also that the agreement failed to account for Iran's missile program and its malign regional activities, including its support to international terrorist organizations. CBS News, 5 Jan. 2022 Rather, the effect was to make Dominion appear as a deliberately malign actor. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, 19 Mar. 2023 About foreign countries exerting malign influence on the U.S. through electric vehicles? Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 30 Jan. 2023 The act had pushed gambling offshore and into the black market, its purpose ostensibly to protect sports organizations from the malign influence of that vice of chance. Luther Ray Abel, National Review, 2 Dec. 2022
Groupthink is a dangerous, palpable thing, and Russ is massively overly maligned for a player who is both very good and very popular. Mark Deeks, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 Few things remain as maligned and downright triggering as hose, which were once a nonnegotiable part of a woman’s wardrobe. Laia Garcia-Furtado, Vogue, 26 Oct. 2023 No one disputes Serena Williams’ GOAT status and no one maligns women’s tennis as less than the men’s. Melissah Yang,, 7 Nov. 2023 The often maligned high fructose corn syrup also makes an appearance. Sam Stone, Bon Appétit, 3 Nov. 2023 The judge issued that order after Trump used social media to identify and malign a court staffer. Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, 16 Oct. 2023 Added to that, in the hierarchy of attachment where 'avoidants' are maligned, the anxiously attached seem to get off rather lightly. Vicky Spratt,, 17 Oct. 2023 Plenty of similarities Palestinians and Jews have been maligning, menacing and murdering each other since the 19th century. Boaz Dvir, The Conversation, 13 Oct. 2023 Yet when anyone points it out, they are brutally maligned as racist. Stanley Goldfarb, National Review, 9 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'malign.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English maligne, from Anglo-French, from Latin malignus, from male badly + gignere to beget — more at mal-, kin


Middle English, from Anglo-French maligner to act maliciously, from Late Latin malignari, from Latin malignus — see malign entry 1

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of malign was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near malign

Cite this Entry

“Malign.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
ma·​lign mə-ˈlīn How to pronounce malign (audio)
: evil in influence or effect
: showing strong ill will : malevolent


2 of 2 verb
: to say evil things about : slander

More from Merriam-Webster on malign

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