Science Word Wednesday: Malignant

Jan 13, 2021
By Whitney Bell


(adjective. /mal-IG-nant/) 

What does it mean? 

In science, the word “malignant” can be defined as cancerous. This word is often used to describe tumors whose cells are abnormal, invasive, fast-growing, and have the ability to metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body and cause life-threatening disease.

Image of malignant tumor characteristics. 

How do I use it in a sentence?

The biopsy confirmed the doctor’s suspicion that the tumor was malignant.

Etymology:This term is derived from the Latin words malignantem, meaning acting from malice,”and malignus, meaning “wicked, bad-natured.”. Mal is the Latin root for “bad” and is combined with ignus, which is the Latin root for “born” or “beget.” 

Related terms: Cancer, benign, tumor, metastatic

Fields of study in which this word is commonly used: Oncology, pathology, cancer biology, cell biology 

Edited by Anna Wheless and Emma Goldberg