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The definition of méchant is "mean", as in "mean-spirited", but how did it get this meaning? A quick search of its etymology shows that it probably derives from the Old French verb cheoir, which means to "fall out" or "become detached". I can see how mean-spiritedness is a kind of falling out... but is that the connection which led méchant to acquire its meaning?

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    Let me add that the prefix "mé-" means "in a bad, negative way" (ex: médire, mécontent, méconnaissable). So mé+chéant would mean "who falls in a bad way", that leans a bit towards the current meaning. Look also at the French article of wiktionary: fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/m%C3%A9chant#.C3.89tymologie
    – Greg
    Nov 7, 2017 at 6:59
  • @Greg Ah, that makes a lot of sense.
    – ktm5124
    Nov 7, 2017 at 7:00
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    Mécréant follows a similar pattern.
    – jlliagre
    Nov 7, 2017 at 15:55
  • @jlliagre Ah! So that's how the English word "miscreant" gets its meaning. Thanks.
    – ktm5124
    Nov 7, 2017 at 23:37

1 Answer 1

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 The prefix "mé-" means "in a bad, negative way" (ex: médire, mécontent, méconnaissable). So mé+chéant would mean "who falls in a bad way", that leans a bit towards the current meaning. Look also at the French article of wiktionary.

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