This word has Latin roots that literally mean “bad-wishing.”
Malevolent people and things are evil or harmful toward others.
muh LEV uh lunt
Part of speech:
Adjective: “malevolent hackers,” “the presence they sensed was malevolent.”
How to use it:
The word “malevolent” is fantastically useful. It’s common enough to be understood easily and emphatic enough to express a profound evil or meanness. When you’re startled and disturbed by how people actually want to inflict pain on others, call them malevolent.
Talk about malevolent people, real or fictional; malevolent faces and sneers; malevolent deeds and intentions; malevolent atmospheres, etc.
Or, talk about malevolent feelings, attitudes, creations, or actions: a malevolent disgust, a malevolent scrutiny, a malevolent policy that makes the poor poorer and then shames them for seeking help.
To get abstract, talk about malevolent cancers, viruses, forces, powers, presences, etc. Here’s Shakespeare: “the malevolence of fortune.”
“My work could charitably be described as sloppy… Stitches dropped themselves and later appeared at random so that the long striped scarf I was knitting bulged in the middle like a python after dining on a rabbit. I fancied that a malevolent Rumpelstiltskin crept into my room at night and undid my best work…”
— Jacqueline Kelly, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, 2011
Writing for The Guardian, Charles Bramesco catalogued the endless popularity of SpongeBob SquarePants, noting how every human emotion has taken form in a SpongeBob meme, including malevolence.