“Although he may seem like an easy target, you should never malign Ben Stein.”

As used in the above sentence, what is the best meaning for malign?

Check your answer!

Choice A - To show disdain for
Choice B - To whisper or speak very quietly to
Choice C - To make someone laugh with a derogatory joke
Choice D - To speak badly about someone


Malign (verb) – to speak ill of someone, or to speak of someone in a spiteful manner

Malign (adjective) – evil in nature; hurtful, malignant

GRE pro tips:

Some words are easier to learn in terms of another word. You are likely familiar with the word align, meaning to associate with a person or a cause. Keeping in mind the meaning of align and the meaning of the Latin root mal (“bad” or “ill”), it’s easier to make sense of the possible definitions for malign.  

Malign, as an adjective, means evil in nature, or “aligned with bad things.” Malign, as a verb, means to speak badly about or slander someone or, perhaps, “to align them with bad things.” Therefore, it is possible – and not surprising – for a malign person to malign another person.

Example sentences:

“The plaintiff had been maligned by the press so she had legitimate grounds for a lawsuit.”

“Although Victor probably should malign his ex-wife for cheating on him, he refuses to say a bad word about her.”