I understand bene to roughly mean well, good, or rightly so from Latin, while neg- coming from Latin negare to roughly mean deny, negate, or against.

The words benefit, beneficial, and benefactor all represent a person or characteristic that yields a positive result or influence. Do any of these words have an antonym that includes the neg- affix? Are there any positive bene-based words that have a neg-based word as its antonym?

Mono- and poly- seem to be frequently paired in an antonymic relationship — does this occur with bene- and neg-?

*Background: I started titling a pro and con list with benefit, and found myself searching for negefit.

  • 3
    I think you're more likely to find dis- as in disbenefit and mal- in words like malefactor than anything with neg-.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 16:36

4 Answers 4


No, bene- and neg- are not used to form antonyms in either English or Latin. Their root meanings of "good" and "deny" are roughly opposed, but not antonyms in English either.

As others have mentioned, mal-, meaning "bad" is the typical antonym to bene-, as in benediction/malediction (literally "good speech", "bad speech").

Posi- may seem like it should oppose negi- because of the positive/negative pairing, but it actually comes from a root word meaning "put" or "place." Affirm- is probably a better opposite to neg- as in affirmative/negative and affirmation/negation.

  • 1
    another example : bonus / malus
    – P. O.
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 17:28
  • 1
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 0:24
  • @P I find it repeatedly fascinating that malus (a bad thing) is also the Latin for apple. Presumably that's why the unspecified "fruit of the tree" in Genesis 3 is universally depicted as an apple.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 8:49

The Oxford Dictionaries online finds

malefit A misfortune, a disadvantage.

from their British & World English Dictionary, supposedly from the 18th century. No provenance or examples.

The printed OED doesn't record this word, but does have malefice meaning either sorcery (first attribution to Chaucer in 1324) marked as archaic or an evil deed or mischief (first attribution to Spenser's poem "Mother Hubberd's Tale" in 1591) marked as obsolete or archaic:

He crammed them with crumbs of Benefices, And did fill their mouths with meeds of malefices

(There's also an obsolete astrological use meaning the obvious thing.)

The OED finds both benefit and benefice from the 1300s. The former prospered into five major senses (including such as the kind of benefit that's a charity event); the latter fell into obsolescence, taking its antonym with it, perhaps because of its special meaning associated with sorcery. Note that malefit would seem to have arrived long after benefit.

  • 3
    This doesn't answer the question, which is about words formed with neg- Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 1:00
  • "The OED doesn't record this word" - I see malefit here (£), earliest citation 1755
    – AakashM
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 12:13
  • @AakashM Thanks. Alas, no access. But if you add your find as an answer (including the cite if it's interesting), I'll upvote.
    – deadrat
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 16:42

Perhaps you were thinking of nugatory? The Oxford Dictionaries online gives

nugatory of no value or importance

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    Welcome to the site, @user207863! This doesn't really answer the question. OP specifically wanted a neg, which this is not. My interpretation is that OP was not thinking of a certain word, merely wanting to know if one existed.
    – AAM111
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 0:50

See https://www.powerthesaurus.org/benefit+negative/antonyms
and https://www.powerthesaurus.org/beneficial+negative/antonyms

“Negative” is more often than not accepted as an antonym to the noun “benefit” and the adjective “beneficial” — so it would be appropriate to contrast “One benefit of this procedure” with “One negative of this procedure”; though a phrase like “negative effect” or “negative impact” would be better.

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