I'm aware they are synonyms, but all the same I'm interested in knowing if one word is usually used more in one particular context, for example, or reserved for such a context. Or whether either one of the verbs connotes a stronger action than the other. Any information/comments would be appreciated. Thanks.

3 Answers 3


illtreat means treating badly, but mistreat means treating wrongly.

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to ELU! I think you're on to something here; could you develop the difference between those two words, maybe include some additional context or example sentences highlighting the differences? This would greatly help the OP in answering the question. Thanks!
    – Erich
    May 1, 2015 at 13:51
  • This answer seems perfectly clear to me. May 1, 2015 at 20:39

In simple terms:

maltreat = ill-treat

maltreat is rougher than mistreat

Need a proof?:-)

Read the entry on "abuse" (as a verb) in:

Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage - Page 10 Bryan A. Garner

abuse, vb.; misuse; mistreat; ill-treat; maltreat. These verbs share the sense “to deal with in a harmful or wrongful way.”

[Edit] One of Garner's references is mentioned on that page as supporting the view that "maltreat is usu. restricted to the rougher forms of mistreating."

  • Your source does not back up your claim that maltreat is rougher than mistrreat. May 1, 2015 at 20:38
  • @StevenLittman I've updated the answer to clarify this aspect. Please have a look at that page. May 2, 2015 at 3:52

The migrant workers during Covid 19 were mistreated by the state governments by not giving them food and shelter.
The ill-treatment on the animals will invite heavy panalties or even jail.
Mistreatment means behave wrongly.
ill- treatment means behave cruelly.

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