Word of the Week: Malignant

illustration of scientist looking into microscope - word of the week

Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell

Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say it: Malignant (mah-LIG-nant)

What it means: Causing death or a condition that is likely to get worse.

Where it comes from: From Latin, malignans, "bad, evil, injurious."

Pigmented cells of a malignant melanoma metastasis of the occipital lobe of the brain.

Jensflorian/Wiki Commons

Where you might see or hear it: Doctors most often use the term malignant when they are talking about cancer. A cancerous tumor is sometimes called a malignancy. The term can also be used to describe a condition that has gotten worse or will get worse—for example, a serious type of ear infection is malignant otitis externa.

When you might want to use it: If you have a tumor and are trying to explain your diagnosis to your family and friends, you can tell them that "malignant" means the tumor is cancerous. If it was not cancer, it would be called benign.

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