Malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance

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Malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance are terms that have legal implications. We will examine the difference between the words malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Malfeasance is a wrongful or criminal act perpetrated by a public official or other person of authority. An act of malfeasance is done intentionally, disregarding the fact that the action is morally or legally wrong and will cause someone harm. The adjective form is malfeasant. The word malfeasance is derived from the French word malfaisance, which means wrongdoing.

Misfeasance is a an act that lawful, but performed in an unlawful, illegal or injurious manner. Generally, misfeasance is different from malfeasance in that the actor does not have the intent to harm, but the harm comes through the actor’s irresponsibility or negligence. The adjective form is misfeasant.  The word misfeasance is derived from the French word mesfaisance, meaning to mis-do.

Nonfeasance is the failure to do something that one is legally responsible to do. Nonfeasance is an intentional failure to live up to one’s legal or moral duty in a given situation, a refusal to fulfill one’s obligation. The adjective form is nonfeasant. The word nonfeasance is derived from the French word faisance meaning an action, and the prefix non– which means not.


Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has warned officials they risked facing malfeasance charges if they do not hunt down fugitive former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after recent photos circulating on social media apparently showed she had been in London. (The Straits Times)

Ronald Ereiser’s principal ground of appeal to the Tax Court was that his reassessments should be vacated because they were issued as the result of misfeasance in public office on the part of CRA tax investigators. (The Lawyer’s Daily)

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua has closed an investigation by his predecessor, Mary E. Rain, into the county’s alleged acts of “misconduct, nonfeasance and neglect of any county department head and/or employee.” (The Watertown Daily Times)

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