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Pronunciation: mê-le-vê-lênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Causing harm, malicious, having a harmful influence. 2. Having evil intentions, manifesting ill will.

Notes: The noun of this word, like all adjectives ending on -ent or -ant, is malevolence. We are seeing, unfortunately, an increase in this human characteristic around the world these days. Remember, the connecting vowel between the two recognizable Greek constituents is E, not O, as in gynecology.

In Play: Malevolence may appear on a mass scale: "Fratricidal wars like the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine usually pave the way for malevolent elements to become brokers." It can also creep in the eyes of individuals: "Crocker had the fiery malevolent eyes of a demon bent on winning no matter the cost."

Word History: Today's Good Word was nicked directly from Latin malevolen(t)s) "ill-disposed, spiteful". (French made malveillant out of the same word.) The Romans combined male "badly" with volen(t)s "desiring", the present participle of velle "to want, desire". Male is the adverbial form of malus "bad", which English borrowed as a prefix in words like maladjusted, malapropism and malfeasance. Velle was inherited from PIE wel-/wol- "to want; will", source also of the English verb and noun will, German wollen "will, want", Russian volya "will (power)", and Serbian voliti "to love". English Romance borrowings volition and voluntary share the same source. In Lithuanian we find valia "will (power)" and viltis "hope", and in Welsh, gwell "better" from the same PIE word. (Now let's all offer our welcome and gratitude to newcomer Rabbi Fred Davidov for suggesting today's unfortunately topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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