Posted by: Jack Henry | May 18, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Feasances

I was just watching Law and Order: SVU the other night and I found out that my favorite detectives have been there just about as long as I’ve been here at JHA. How is it that Mariska Hargitay looks so amazing and I look like a brunette Marian the librarian? (Maybe it has something to do with Mr. Universe being her dad and Jayne Mansfield being her mom?) Well, in honor of her 19th year as Olivia Benson, I have some legal terms to share with you today.

First, from The Grammarist:

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 an act that is 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.

Next, an etymology from Google:


late 17th century: from Anglo-Norman French malfaisance, from mal- ‘evil’ + Old French faisance ‘activity.’ Compare with misfeasance.

All these prefixes led me to wonder, is there a plain old word feasance? Indeed, there is. According to Google, it is also a legal term that means “the doing or performing of an act, as of a condition or duty.”

And finally:

Maleficent. Okay, that’s not a legal term. It’s the name of a fairy tale movie from 2014, though I’m betting the “mal” in the main character’s name also stands for “evil.”

Jayne Mansfield and Miklos “Mickey” Hargitay

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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