• synonyms


  1. 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).
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Compare male-.

Origin of mal-

Middle English < Old French, representing mal adv. (< Latin male badly, ill) and adj. (< Latin malus bad)


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mal

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Mal,” properly speaking, seems to have been a certain tribute, as above.

    Y Gododin


  • 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.


    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

British Dictionary definitions for mal


abbreviation for
  1. Malaysia (international car registration)
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combining form
  1. bad or badly; wrong or wrongly; imperfect or defectivemaladjusted; malfunction
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Word Origin

Old French, from Latin malus bad, male badly


abbreviation for
  1. Bible Malachi
  2. Malay(an)
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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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mal in Medicine


(măl, mäl)
  1. A disease or disorder.
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  1. Bad; badly:malpractice.
  2. Abnormal; abnormally:malformation.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.