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a combining form meaning “bad,” “wrongful,” “ill,” occurring originally in loanwords from French (malapert); on this model, used in the formation of other words (malfunction; malcontent).
Compare male-.
Origin of mal-
Middle English < Old French, representing mal adv. (< Latin male badly, ill) and adj. (< Latin malus bad)


2. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • mal,” properly speaking, seems to have been a certain tribute, as above.

    Y Gododin Aneurin
  • That business of making mal stick to the engagement was pretty silly.

    Cap'n Warren's Wards Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Bon an, mal an, the time passed away at Princeton for four years.

    Memoirs Charles Godfrey Leland
  • What methods did they adopt to counteract the discomfort of mal de mer?

  • His brain working feverishly, mal Shaff waited for the darkness.

    Hellhounds of the Cosmos Clifford Donald Simak
  • Her only thought is how to get disembarrassed of this man who has appeared at a moment so mal apropos.

    The Death Shot Mayne Reid
  • In this beautiful place we spent the night, and the following at mal Baie.

    Hudson Bay R.M. Ballantyne
  • Mademoiselle had an attack of mal de mer and had recourse to me.

    Hurricane Island

    H. B. Marriott Watson
  • mal, old fellow, as I said before, history does repeat itself.

    Witness to the Deed George Manville Fenn
British Dictionary definitions for mal


Malaysia (international car registration)


combining form
bad or badly; wrong or wrongly; imperfect or defective: maladjusted, malfunction
Word Origin
Old French, from Latin malus bad, male badly


(Bible) Malachi
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mal


word-forming element meaning "bad, badly, ill, poorly, wrong, wrongly," from French mal (adv.), from Old French mal (adj., adv.) "evil, ill, wrong, wrongly" (9c.), from Latin male (adv.) "badly," or malus (adj.) "bad, evil" (fem. mala, neuter malum), of unknown origin, perhaps related to Avestan mairiia "treacherous." Most Modern English words with this prefix are 19c. coinages.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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mal in Medicine

mal (māl, mäl)
A disease or disorder.

mal- pref.

  1. Bad; badly: malpractice.

  2. Abnormal; abnormally: malformation.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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