word-forming element meaning "bad, ill; hard, difficult; abnormal, imperfect," from Greek dys-, inseparable prefix "destroying the good sense of a word or increasing its bad sense" [Liddell & Scott], hence "bad, hard, unlucky," from PIE root (and prefix) *dus- "bad, ill, evil" (source also of Sanskrit dus-, Old Persian duš- "ill," Old English to-, Old High German zur-, Gothic tuz- "un-"), a derivative of the root *deu- (1) "to lack, be wanting" (source of Greek dein "to lack, want").
Very productive in ancient Greek, where it could attach even to proper names (such as dysparis "unhappy Paris"); its entries take up nine columns in Liddell & Scott. Among the words formed from it were some English might covet: dysouristos "fatally favorable, driven by a too-favorable wind;" dysadelphos "unhappy in one's brothers;" dysagres "unlucky in fishing;" dysantiblepos "hard to look in the face."
word-forming element of Latin origin meaning "bad, badly, ill, poorly, wrong, wrongly," from French mal (adv.), from Old French mal (adj., adv.) "evil, ill, wrong, wrongly" (9c.), from Latin male (adv.) "badly," or malus (adj.) "bad, evil" (fem. mala, neuter malum), from Proto-Italic *malo-, from PIE *mol-o-, probably from PIE root *mel- (3) "false, bad, wrong."
Most Modern English words with this element are 19c. coinages. It generally implies imperfection or deficiency, but often it is simply negative (as in malfeasance, malcontent). It is equivalent to dys- and caco- of Greek origin and Germanic mis- (1).
before vowels cac-, word-forming element meaning "bad, ill, poor" (as in cacography, the opposite of calligraphy and orthography), from Latinized form of Greek kakos "bad, evil," considered by etymologists probably to be connected with PIE root *kakka- "to defecate." The ancient Greek word was common in compounds; when added to words already bad, it made them worse; when added to words signifying something good, it often implies too little of it.