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90s Slang You Should Know


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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for mal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In this beautiful place we spent the night, and the following at mal Baie.

    Hudson Bay R.M. Ballantyne
  • That business of making mal stick to the engagement was pretty silly.

    Cap'n Warren's Wards Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Nearly half of their party died of “mal de la terre,” or scurvy, and others were at the point of death.

    Glimpses of the Past W. O. Raymond
  • Bon an, mal an, the time passed away at Princeton for four years.

    Memoirs Charles Godfrey Leland
  • When they were opposite mal Baie, about twenty-five leagues below Quebec, a strange sail bore in sight.

    Old Quebec Sir Gilbert Parker and Claude Glennon Bryan
  • What methods did they adopt to counteract the discomfort of mal de mer?

  • The gold miners, untouched by mal de mer, sang jolly songs and played cards to amuse themselves.

    Blazing The Way Emily Inez Denny
  • On leaving mal Abrigo, the next station, the character of the landscape alters.

    Uruguay W. H. Koebel
  • No harm had been done the bushes: it was a mal entendu—what would you have?

    The Secret of Charlotte Bront Frederika Macdonald
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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