Trend Watch

Ryan: There May Have Been 'Malfeasance'

Lookups rise over 4100%


Malfeasance swaggered to the top of our lookups on January 30th, 2018, after House Speaker Paul Ryan used the word while speaking on the subject of a contentious memo.

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Photo: Gage Skidmore

'Feasance' is an obsolete word for "doing" or "execution."

Ryan pleaded with members not to oversell the memo and to distinguish it from Mueller's investigation...."There are legitimate questions about whether an American's civil liberties were violated under the FISA process....there may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals," he said.
— Kyle Cheney and Rachael Bade, Politico (politico.com), 30 Jan 2018

Malfeasance comes from the prefix mal- and the now obsolete word feasance ("doing, execution"); we define it as "wrongdoing or misconduct especially by a public official." The word, which has been in use since the mid-17th century, is not terribly common, yet is more often encountered than some of its cousins, such as nonfeasance and misfeasance.

How far this poor Government has been abdicated, renounced, deserted and forsaken by Malefeasance, Misfeasance, Nonfeasance, and at last by an utter Dereliction, I need not repeat, it being too evident to all, but those who will not see, than whom there is none so blind and incorrigibly ignorant.
— Hugo Grotius, The Proceedings of the Present Parliament Justified, 1689



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