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Word of the Day
Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Definitions for malfeasance

  1. Law. the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust).

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Citations for malfeasance
The mid-nineteen-seventies was a revolutionary moment in investigative reporting—the perhaps inevitable aftermath of Woodward and Bernstein, with stories on C.I.A. operations, military cover-ups, and Congressional malfeasance all over the front pages. Seymour M. Hersh, "Scooped by Mike Wallace," The New Yorker, April 8, 2012
All reports in Tahiti declared her husband to have been precisely the man he'd always seemed: a gentle virtuous soul, incapable of malfeasance, too good for this world. Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things, 2013
Origin of malfeasance
Tracing the history of the word malfeasance (with an earlier spelling male-feasance) “illegal act, official misconduct” is as disorienting as getting lost in a hall of mirrors. The phrase Male-feasance and Mis-feasance is first recorded in 1663. Misfeasance (spelled misfeasance) “wrongful use of lawful authority” is first recorded in Sir Francis Bacon’s The Elements of the Common Lawes of England (1630). Male-feasance may be a reworking of misfeasance with replacement of the combining form mis- with mal-. The law being very traditional in its terminology, the change of prefix may have been influenced by malfeasor (variously spelled) “malefactor,” which had a very brief history in print—less than a century—and was obsolete by the late 15th century.