Printable Version
Pronunciation: mæ-li-sên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A curse, malediction, execration, damnation; the antonym of benison "blessing".

Notes: Today we have an oldish and rather poetic substitute for curse. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) it has a current usage frequency score of 2 out of 8 mostly in Scotland and Northern England. The verbal use of this word was limited to Scotland long ago but now the OED considers it archaic even there. So, it is an absolute lexical orphan.

In Play: The rarity of this word lends it an emphatic tinge: "A malison on all politicians who sit silent in face of massacre after massacre of children in schools!" However, it is mostly just a poetic substitute for curse: "Like most other old mansions, this one was laid under malison by a previous owner."

Word History: Today's Good Word was malisoun in Middle English, rented and never returned from Old French maleiçon, which is a remodeled Latin malediction(n), the noun from maledicere "to speak ill, curse". Maledicere is a compound verb consisting of male "badly" + dicere "to say, speak". Latin inherited male from PIE mel- "false, failure", found also in Greek meleos "wretched, miserable", Welsh mall "spoiled", Lithuanian melas "lie, falsehood" and Armenian mel "sin". Dicere comes from PIE deik-/doik- "to show", also underlying Greek deiknynao "I show", German zeigen "to show", and English teach, from Old English tæcan. English also received token from the same PIE word via its Germanic ancestors. Latin also created digitus "finger, toe" from the same root.

Dr. Goodword,

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