a combining form meaning “bad,” “wrongful,” “ill,” occurring originally in loanwords from French (malapert ); on this model, used in the formation of other words (malfunction; malcontent ).
Compare male-.

Middle English < Old French, representing mal adv. (< Latin male badly, ill) and adj. (< Latin malus bad) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
combining form
bad or badly; wrong or wrongly; imperfect or defective: maladjusted; malfunction
[Old French, from Latin malus bad, male badly]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

prefix meaning "bad, badly, ill," from Fr., from O.Fr. mal "evil, ill, wrong, wrongly," from L. male (adv.) "badly," or malus (adj.) "bad, evil" (fem. mala, neut. malum), of unknown origin, perhaps related to Avestan mairiia "treacherous." Most Mod.Eng. words with this prefix are 19c. coinages (malnutrition,
malodorous, etc.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

mal- pref.

  1. Bad; badly: malpractice.

  2. Abnormal; abnormally: malformation.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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