Difference between misfunction and malfunction?
Is misfunction a proper English word? If it is, what's the difference between the two above?
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Dictionaries have defined misfunction as a synonym of malfunction. See also, Wiki: To function incorrectly; to malfunction.
However, misfunction is rarely used.
Technically, malfunction implies an erroneous and detrimental functioning, whereas misfunction merely implies an incorrect (not necessarily harmful) functioning.
mal- 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).
mis-1 a prefix applied to various parts of speech, meaning “ill,” “mistaken,” “wrong,” “wrongly,” “incorrectly,” or simply negating: mistrial; misprint; mistrust.
Malfunction refers to the function itself failing to operate as designed. For example, if a valve fails to completely shut off a pipe because it's improperly seated, it malfunctions.
Misfunction is when a function works as designed, but with the wrong effect due to exterior circumstances. For example, if a valve misfunctions, it shuts off the pipe correctly, but at the wrong time, because of excess flow, for example. A gun "misfiring" is another good example of a misfunction. The gun discharges the round the way it was designed to (i.e., it doesn't "malfunction"), but at the wrong time, say because the trigger was set too sensitive.
A malfunction can happen continually; a misfunction can happen continuously.
"Once again, the turret drill press is malfunctioning; it is misfunctioning on every piece."
But, essentially, they mean the same. Most English speakers would look at this differentiation as pedantic or worse.
"Works poorly" is my choice against the Latinate.