Home Grammar Why you’ll be able to ‘malign,’ however not ‘benign’

Why you’ll be able to ‘malign,’ however not ‘benign’

Why you’ll be able to ‘malign,’ however not ‘benign’


Q: “Malign” and “benign” look as if they need to be antonyms with the identical components of speech. However “malign” is a verb and “malignant” the adjective, whereas “benign” is an adjective with no corresponding verb. Shouldn’t a tumor be “malignant” or “benignant”?  And why can’t you “benign” in addition to “malign” somebody?

A: Sure, “benign” and “malign” do behave otherwise, however not fairly as otherwise as you assume. A smile or a tumor will be “benign” or “benignant,” in accordance with many customary dictionaries, although “benign” is a way more widespread adjective.

One massive distinction, as you level out, is that “malign” is a verb or an adjective whereas “benign” is just an adjective.  So why can somebody malign an individual’s character, however not benign it? We’ll have to return to the Latin roots of the 2 phrases to reply.

“Malign” comes from the classical Latin malignus (depraved, imply), a compound of male (“badly”) and gignere (“to beget”), whereas “benign” comes from the classical Latin benignus (kindly, pleasant, beneficiant), a compound of bene (properly) and gignere.

In post-classical Latin, the 2 adjectives impressed two verbs—malignare (to behave or plot maliciously, to defame) and benignor or benignari (to rejoice or take enjoyment of).  As you’ll be able to see, the Latin verbs weren’t antonyms.

Listed here are examples for every that we’ve present in Saint Jerome’s Latin translation of the Outdated and New Testaments, accomplished in 405:

  • “leva manus tuas in superbias eorum in finem quanta malignatus est inimicus in sancto” (“Raise up your palms towards their pleasure till the tip; see how a lot the enemy has maligned the sanctuary”). From Psalms 74:3.
  • “nec est apud eam accipere personas neque differentias, sed quae iusta sunt facit omnibus iniustis ac malignis. et omnes benignantur in operibus eius” (“It isn’t together with her [truth] to choose individuals or variations, however she does what’s simply to all, forsaking injustice and evil, and all rejoice in her works”). From 1 Esdra 4:39.

Within the early twelfth century, in accordance with the Oxford English Dictionary, Outdated French adopted the Latin malignare as maligner (to plot, deceive, act wrongly). And in  the early fifteenth century, English borrowed the time period from Anglo-Norman, the place it meant to slander.

When the verb maligne appeared in Center English, the OED says, it may imply both to behave wickedly or to slander somebody. The dictionary’s earliest citations for these senses are from two completely different works written across the identical time by the English monk and poet John Lydgate:

  • “Ay þe extra he was to hem benigne, / Þe extra vngoodly ageyn hym þei malygne” (“Ay, the extra he was to them benign, the extra ungoodly [wrongly] towards him they malign”). From Troyyes Ebook (circa 1420), Lydgate’s translation from the Latin of Historia Destructionis Troiae (1287), by Guido delle Colonne.
  • “For it had been veyne, nature to malingne, / Although she of kynde be the Empresse, / Ayeyne hir lorde that made hir so maystresse” (“For it had been a inconsiderate trait of hers to malign, although she be correctly the Empress, towards the lord who made her his mistress”). We’ve expanded the quotation from Lydgate’s non secular poem Lifetime of Our Girl (circa 1420-22).

However so far as we are able to inform, benignor or benignari, the post-classical Latin verb that means to rejoice or take enjoyment of, didn’t encourage an identical verb in Outdated French, Anglo-Norman, or Center English.

In order that’s why trendy English doesn’t have a verb “benign” because the antonym of our verb “malign.” And English audio system apparently don’t really feel the necessity for one.

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