Misfeasance vs. Malfeasance vs. Nonfeasance

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Is there a difference between malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance? Of course, there is! While these three terms are all related to the area of criminal activity, they’re very distinct in their meanings, and mixing them up can cause unfortunate results. So, get them straight with my tips in this guide.

The Terms Malfeasance, Misfeasance, and Nonfeasance

Misfeasance vs. Malfeasance vs. Nonfeasance 1

As usual, let’s start with some quick definitions as a reference point to go back to as you read the article.

  • Malfeasance: This is when someone is intentionally (on purpose) doing something that’s illegal or wrong.
  • Misfeasance: The total opposite. It’s when someone does something legal but in the wrong way.
  • Nonfeasance: The failure to do something that should have been done, resulting in harm or damage.

Misfeasance vs. Malfeasance

I know exactly what you thought of when you saw these two words, “Aren’t misfeasance and malfeasance basically much the same thing?”

Nope, not exactly. Yes, they’re spelled really similarly, but misfeasance is more about unknowing negligence or plain incompetence, and malfeasance is intentional wrongdoing.

Think of it this way: misfeasance is like involuntary manslaughter from accidentally hitting someone with your car, but malfeasance is like deciding to intentionally hit someone with your car (also known as straight-up murder!).

Misfeasance vs. Nonfeasance

The biggest difference between these two terms is that misfeasance involves taking some kind of action, whether intentional or not. But nonfeasance is simply not taking action at all, whether by refusal or without knowing.

It’s like the difference between forgetting to feed your pet (nonfeasance) versus accidentally stepping on its tail (misfeasance). I’ve been guilty of both!

What Is Another Word for Malfeasance?

  • Wrongdoing
  • Misconduct
  • Breach of duty
  • Atrocity
  • Crime
  • Misbehavior
  • Misdoing
  • Misdeed
  • Malpractice

How Do You Pronounce Malfeasance, Misfeasance, and Nonfeasance?

Pronouncing these tongue twisters is essential to getting them right and not causing any confusion when speaking.

  • Malfeasance: mal-fee-zuhns
  • Misfeasance: mis-fee-zuhns
  • Nonfeasance: non-fee-zuhns

Examples of Malfeasance in a Sentence

Misfeasance vs. Malfeasance vs. Nonfeasance 2
  • The tech CEO was caught embezzling company funds, a clear case of malfeasance, so there’s a board meeting on Monday.
  • My brother-in-law was a police officer caught performing malfeasance while on official duty, accepting bribes from drug dealers.
  • In an act of malfeasance and ignoring their legal duty, the company knowingly released a faulty and harmful product to the market for people to buy.
  • Even though I dove out of the way, the driver still veered toward me, and the malfeasance was caught on CCTV, so he’s being charged.

Examples of Misfeasance in a Sentence

  • My father’s surgeon made a huge mistake during his hernia operation. This was a straightforward case of malfeasance vs. misfeasance, but the doctor is still held accountable.
  • I was mad that the newbie contractor cut corners during the construction of our new house. We’ve got issues with the framing and leaking windows. It was an act of misfeasance, but he promised to fix everything.
  • It’s so frustrating! Our accountant made a huge mistake with our taxes. Even though it was misfeasance, we now have penalties and fines.
  • Our family doctor prescribed the wrong medication for our daughter, and she nearly overdosed on iron, an act of misfeasance.

Examples of Nonfeasance in a Sentence

  • In an act of nonfeasance, the lifeguard failed to notice the person drowning at the pool’s far end.
  • My son’s teacher failed to report the suspected child abuse he told her about another student, and the school authorities say it’s a situation of nonfeasance.
  • The city of Gander didn’t repair that massive pothole near Walmart, an act of nonfeasance, and now there’s been three accidents already.
  • Our horrible landlord still hasn’t fixed our leaking roof, and now there’s water damage. The rental manager assures us it’s nonfeasance.

The Law Is the Law

I hope my simple guide helped you understand the difference between malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance. All three are considered crimes on different levels, but you definitely don’t want to be caught doing either of them. If you use these words for your writing, refer to my guide to ensure you’ve got the facts straight.