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Meaning of "malaise". Options
Koh Elaine
Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2017 10:50:27 PM
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What is the meaning of "malaise"?

I have checked the meaning of this word in dictionaries, but still do not understand its meaning.

Could someone please explain its meaning to me?

Can the word be used for a person who is going to fall ill?

Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2017 11:15:23 PM

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Hi Elaine.

You know how when you have no energy and have a sneaking suspicion your throat might be getting sore, and you just don't feel like doing anything? Maybe you have a bit of a headache. Maybe your body will fight it off. Maybe you'll get sick. You are not really sick but you have a general feeling of malaise. The operative word is 'general'.

I call it my FLC syndrome - feel like crap.

And it can be used for other categories besides humans.

The markets remained in malaise - TFD. They weren't doing anything.
Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2017 11:21:27 PM

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malaise n
1. a feeling of unease or depression
2. (Pathology) a mild sickness, not symptomatic of any disease or ailment


For people, it can mean two things:
#1 is a mental state of not being "at ease" or comfortable in an environment - some people feel malaise when they go into the room to take an exam, some people feel malaise when they go into an old house in the dark . . .

#2 is a medical term. It's a similar, vague, "not really feeling perfectly well" without being able to say "I have a headache" or "my stomach is upset" or anything like that - just feeling that something is not quite right, but not anything specific.

3. a complex of problems affecting a country, economy, etc: Bulgaria's economic malaise.

For a country or state or society, it is all the problems and difficulties acting together which are causing some overall bad situation.

For example, imagine a country which was doing well, vigorous economy, very productive industry (so more jobs than people wanting a job), no unemployment problem, everyone able to afford their own home or to rent if they wish to, an education system which allowed anyone to rise to the level they wish to.
Then a government comes into power which has people who either don't know how to manage, or who are only interested in profits for themselves.
Trade with other nations is blocked by an increase in taxes, so exports drop, so factories have to close, so people are unemployed, so they can't buy so much, so more factories have to close, people can't afford homes, more industries close down, so there's more unemployment . . .
That whole "general bad situation" is malaise (specifically economic malaise) - when it gets to the point at which the country becomes one of the top drug-users on the planet, having the highest percentage of criminals in its population, illiteracy rife, people in fear of each other - then it is a general malaise.

A much shorted and to-the-point reply from Hope, while I was thinking!
Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2017 4:40:09 AM

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I like just like to add that it is not commonly used for people, in my experience.

It is a word taken directly from French (or at least I think of it that way - of course it is now a word in English, and a lot of English words originated from French - but this one seems to have kept its French feeling).
As a borrowed word it is used to describe something that English words don't cover.

So it is unspecific, just a general feeling. A person who is not ill with any identifiable disease, not seriously depressed; an economy not in recession or collapse - you just know there is something wrong. It is not as healthy as it should be.

Literally 'bad - ease' - something is wrong. Think

A slang snonym could be 'a bit icky'. Whistle
Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2017 7:39:45 AM

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My French-English dictionary gives these translations of the French word "malaise" :

▶ feeling of general discomfort or ill-being
/Medecine/ ▶ feeling of sickness or faintnes
■ malaise cardiaque : mild heart attack
■ être pris d'un malaise, avoir un malaise : to feel faint ou dizzy | to come over faint ou dizzy
b « trouble » ▶ uneasiness
■ éprouver un malaise : to feel uneasy
■ le malaise étudiant/politique : student/political unrest
■ malaise économique/social : economic/social malaise
Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2017 8:12:28 AM

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That is pretty much it in English, except for the heart attack (which is real and defined and a single event) and the student unrest (which is energetic and angry). And not 'iuneasy' as in worried or disturbed. Malaise in English is always a lack of vigour or energy, and prolonged over a period of time.

But what I actually started this post to say was...d'oh! Dictionary entries like one which translates French malaise as English malaise really bug me! At least in this instance it is in a different language. So many entries in dictionaries (yes, you, tfd) seem to be self-referential. Apart from as a spelling aid, what use is that?
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