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I understand what the different parts of maladjusted, maligned, and malcontent mean.

But what about malevolent and malicious?

Could someone break these into parts e.g. mal - adjust - ed and explain the meaning of each of the parts for both of these words.

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Etymonline is your best friend in this kind of situations:

malevolent c.1500, from O.Fr. malivolent, from L. malevolentem (nom. malevolens) "ill-disposed, envious," from male "badly" + volentem (nom. volens), prp. of velle "to wish".

malicious early 13c., from O.Fr. malicius "showing ill will," from L. malitiosus "wicked, malicious," from malitia "badness, ill will, spite," from malus "bad".

Edit: "O.Fr." stands for Old French (the French language as written and spoken around 900–1400), and "L." for Classical Latin (the language of ancient Rome until about 4th century).

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Thanks for the link to Etymonline, this will be helpful –  xiaohouzi79 Dec 21 '10 at 20:47
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Malevolent

from Latin malevolens, from male ill + volens, present participle of velle to wish

Malicious

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin malitia, from malus bad

Both words mean bad, and are pretty much synonymous, but malevolent may have more of a feeling of potential evil smoldering within a person, while malicious could used to describe actual evil that has been demonstrated. Example:

I knew he was a malevolent S.O.B., but I never dreamed he would perform such a malicious act.

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+1 malevolent = wishing ill harm, a malevolent person is one that wishes, or desires ill harm (to others). –  Orbling Dec 20 '10 at 23:34
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Maladjusted

mal(us) - Latin for "bad". ad - Latin for "to" justus - fair or correct (we get "justice" from "justitia", which is related)

Malign

See above, and gignere - to bring about, to give birth to

Malcontent

contentus - contained, hence, self-contained.

Malevolent

volens - wishing

Malicious

In Latin the suffix "itia" means, having the quality of, or full of (hence, "justitia' - see above". So you start with "malitia", and this elides over time to "malicious".

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