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I've heard a single word before that means "withholding medicine from a sick person" or "withholding food from a starving person" or "refusing to alert an airplane pilot flying in the dark that he's about to crash into a mountain". The basic idea is not taking some action knowing that inaction will later lead to harm for another person.

I thought for sure there was a single word for this (and it's more malicious than "negligence"). What is it?

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3 Answers 3

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Perhaps you are referring to omission: a failure to do something, esp. something that one has a moral or legal obligation to do.

Synonyms: negligence, neglect, neglectfulness, dereliction, forgetfulness, oversight, default, lapse, failure.

Perhaps you have heard of sins of *o*mission, as opposed to sins of *co*mmission. People have a moral obligation to do the right thing. If they do the wrong thing, they have committed a bad act. If they fail to act when it is called for, they are to blame for what they did not do.

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That's probably as good as I'm going to get, thanks. –  Alex Henrie Dec 12 '13 at 6:38

Are you thinking of malevolent perhaps?

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'Malevolent' is far more general than what OP is asking about. –  JAM Dec 11 '13 at 1:57
    
Maybe I'm just imagining it, but I thought English had a word for this more specific than "malevolent" or "malfeasance". –  Alex Henrie Dec 11 '13 at 5:13

Are you thinking of "malfeasance"? The first examples suggest "deprivation," and that, too, is malicious. But deprivation doesn't fit the case of not alerting someone.

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