Word: malfeasance

Pronunciation: mal-FEE-zəns

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: wrongdoing, especially by a public official

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Fun fact: sometimes my mom likes to browse through articles and posts about the English language and send me the ones she finds interesting as ideas for blog post topics. A couple of weeks ago, she sent me a new suggestion for my vocabulary segment in the form of a Dictionary.com Word of the Day entry, and I admit I found the word so fascinating that I had to write about it on my blog. It’s hardly surprising why: like so many other words, “malfeasance” could potentially become a lot more common in the media this year!

“Malfeasance” is the practice of wrongdoing, especially by a public official. The word arose in the late 17th century and comes from the Old French noun malfaisance, meaning “wrongdoing”. This noun stems from the Latin verb malefacere “to do evil”, which in turn comprises the adjective malus “bad” and the verb facere “to do”.

Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as a Law noun, the word “malfeasance” is most appropriate for formal or legal contexts, though I assume it could work just as well in the narrative of a law-themed story. Despite being similar in meaning, it should not be confused with “misfeasance”, defined as “a transgression, especially the wrongful exercise of lawful authority”. A word that can be used to define someone who commits such wrongdoing is the derivative noun “malfeasant”, which can also be used as an adjective. If you write fiction about politicians who commit wrongful acts, a “malfeasance” could be a good plot point in your next story!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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