How does the word malady differ from disease? Also,in what contexts can the word malady be used?

Below are my findings / details I have collected about the two:

  1. Many dictionaries list the word malady as old fashioned. (but not always)

2.Disease is a term frequently used by medical professionals. But, I almost never see the word malady used in medical fields in the same sense. So, my educated guess is DISEASE has a strict medical definition. it is A MEDICAL CONDITION (involving its laboratory finding definite causes symptoms and cure).

3.In every day english, illness reflects how one feels about her/ himself eg:- I'm feeling ill / not well coz I got a headache.the sufferer needn't have a medical condition to just feel ill. So, an ill guy can stay without a disease! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease

  1. Similarly, sickness reflects how long a person is bed ridden / absent from his job eg:- he reported sick leave today. The words illness and sickness are less stigmatizing than disease. So, my gut-feeling is that the word malady can perhaps have similar connotations too.

5.Though considered old fashioned, malady is still used to refer to PROBLEMS IN GENERAL or CHRONIC/ SERIOUS/ DEEP- SEATED DISEASES eg:- 1.the monthly malady of ladies ( menses?) 2. Cure for certain maladies like cancer.... 3. Homelessness is a social malody (https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/malady

6.Though considered non- medical, the word still appears in medical literature. eg:- "sexually transmitted melody" meaning that it is not completely obsolete [1]: https://i.stack.imgur.com/Iuxmq.jpg

  • Have you checked their definitions? May 16, 2023 at 16:25
  • malady is not used much in contemporary speech. That said there is a lovely book called: The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's similar to journey for trip. Somewhat literary.
    – Lambie
    May 16, 2023 at 16:25
  • I use malady as metaphor for vague but chronic faults: Cheapness, being on automatic, learned helplessness of asking for help in googling. May 16, 2023 at 16:28
  • I note that the author of (5) has an Indian name. In British English malady sounds old-fashioned and is used more in the metaphorical sense - 'a social malady' - than to refer to an actual disease. May 17, 2023 at 8:03
  • 1
    @jsw29 The only difference is that the term is old fashioned. Otherwise, a malady is a sickness or a disease. It is the same thing originally.
    – Lambie
    May 17, 2023 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


malady is not used much in contemporary, ordinary speech.

That said there is a lovely book called: The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's similar to journey for trip. Somewhat literary. And quite 19th c.

A malady is a sickness, i.e. disease. Same thing.

  • Subtle difference exists among the words sickness illness disease and malady. May 16, 2023 at 16:37
  • No, a malady is a sickness or a disease or an illness. The word is not common today except in literature. Synonyms: ailment, disease, disorder, distemper, illness, sickness.en.wiktionary.org/wiki/malady
    – Lambie
    May 16, 2023 at 16:57
  • 1
    @Lambie When a word is uncommon except in literature, I would agree with OP it creates a subtle difference. It probably has literary register, which adds a sense of formality or high culture. For example, in a novel having a modern setting, if a character uses the word "malady" it could create the sense that the character is bookish, or affects bookishness. There is a world of difference between a synonym and a strict equality.
    – MetaEd
    May 16, 2023 at 17:36
  • @MetaEd Where have I not basically said that in my answer? I said it was literary, I said it was 19 c. and I even gave a literary title to show how it is used. There is no difference: Shakespeare's King Lear: that this contentious storm Invades us to the skin. So 'tis to thee; But where the greater malady [sickness or desease] is fix'd, The lesser is scarce felt Same thing.
    – Lambie
    May 16, 2023 at 17:37
  • 2
    @Lambie You said "a malady", "a sickness", and "disease" are the same, and when Selfie groupie pointed out a subtle difference exists among the words "sickness", "illness", "disease", and "malady", you said no, they are the same. And that's the part of your answer, and the part of your comment, that I don't agree with. And I don't think you agree with yourself either, because you pointed out there is a difference of register.
    – MetaEd
    May 16, 2023 at 18:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.