Ask Difference

Discontent vs. Malcontent — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on April 18, 2024
Discontent refers to a feeling of dissatisfaction or unhappiness, while malcontent describes a person who is chronically dissatisfied and rebellious.
Discontent vs. Malcontent — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Discontent and Malcontent


Key Differences

Discontent is an emotional state characterized by dissatisfaction with one's circumstances, often leading to restlessness or a desire for change. On the other hand, malcontent is used to describe a person who embodies this state of dissatisfaction, typically in a chronic or disruptive manner. This term often connotes a deeper, more entrenched sense of rebellion against the status quo.
While discontent can be temporary and situational, influenced by specific events or conditions, malcontent implies a habitual, intrinsic trait of a person. Whereas someone experiencing discontent might feel unhappy with their job, a malcontent is likely to perpetually find fault across many aspects of life, including work, social structures, and relationships.
Discontent can arise from a wide range of emotions, including envy, frustration, or ambition. Conversely, being a malcontent often involves a broader criticism or rejection of societal norms or governance, marking a fundamental disagreement with the prevailing system.
Individuals may express discontent through private grumbling or temporary withdrawal, while malcontents might actively voice their dissatisfaction or engage in actions aimed at disrupting or changing the system. Whereas discontent may not lead to significant action, malcontent behavior can have substantial implications, including social activism or revolutionary movements.
Understanding these terms is crucial in contexts where the nature and implications of dissatisfaction need to be assessed. While someone simply feeling discontent might require support or change in circumstances, dealing with a malcontent could involve addressing deeper ideological or systemic issues.

Comparison Chart


Feeling of dissatisfaction or unhappiness
Person chronically dissatisfied and rebellious


Often temporary
Typically long-lasting or habitual


Can be specific to certain aspects of life
Generally widespread dissatisfaction


May lead to personal changes
Often leads to outspoken criticism or rebellion


Neutral, can be seen as a motivator for improvement
Negative, often associated with troublemaking

Compare with Definitions


Restlessness stemming from a lack of fulfillment.
Her artistic discontent pushed her to explore new forms of expression.


An individual who rebels against established norms.
Historical revolutions often start with malcontents.


The feeling of wanting better treatment or conditions.
Discontent with the current management grew among the staff.


A person known for their discontented nature.
As a known malcontent, he was rarely invited to team meetings.


Unhappiness resulting from unmet expectations.
Discontent at work spurred him to seek a new job.


A person dissatisfied with the current state of affairs.
The group was led by a malcontent who criticized every decision.


A desire for change due to dissatisfaction.
Voter discontent was evident in the high turnout for the election.


An antagonist in stories, often causing trouble due to dissatisfaction.
The novel features a malcontent whose actions disrupt the community.


A state of dissatisfaction with one's circumstances.
The rising cost of living has led to widespread discontent among the population.


Someone who is chronically unhappy with societal structures.
Malcontents in the organization often challenge the leadership.


Absence of contentment; dissatisfaction.


The malcontent is a character type that often appeared in early modern drama. The character is discontented with the social structure and other characters in the play, and is often an outsider who observes and comments on the action, and may even acknowledge they are in a play.


A restless longing for better circumstances.


Dissatisfied with existing conditions.


One who is discontented.


A chronically dissatisfied person.




One who rebels against the established system
"immature malcontents who have long since sold out to conformity" (John M. Wilson).


To make discontented.


Dissatisfied with current conditions; disaffected, discontented, rebellious.


(uncountable) Dissatisfaction.


A person who is not satisfied with current conditions; a discontented person, a rebel.


(uncountable) A longing for better times or circumstances.


(obsolete) A state of discontentment or dissatisfaction; something that causes discontent.


(countable) A discontented person; a malcontent.


To cause discontent or dissatisfaction.


To deprive of contentment; to make uneasy; to dissatisfy.


Discontented; uneasy; dissatisfied; especially, dissatisfied with the government.
The famous malcontent earl of Leicester.


Not content; discontented; dissatisfied.


One who discontented; especially, a discontented subject of a government; one who expresses his discontent by words or overt acts.


Not content; discontented; dissatisfied.
Passion seemed to be much discontent, but Patience was very quiet.


A person who is discontented or disgusted


To deprive of content; to make uneasy; to dissatisfy.


Discontented as toward authority


Want of content; uneasiness and inquietude of mind; dissatisfaction; disquiet.
Now is the winter of our discontentMade glorious summer by this sun of York.
The rapacity of his father's administration had excited such universal discontent.


A discontented person; a malcontent.
Thus was the Scotch nation full of discontents.


A longing for something better than the present situation


Make dissatisfied


Showing or experiencing dissatisfaction or restless longing;
Saw many discontent faces in the room
Was discontented with his position

Common Curiosities

How do people express discontent?

People express discontent in various ways, from verbal complaints to withdrawing from engagement in activities.

Can discontent be positive?

Yes, discontent can be a driving force for personal development and social change.

Are malcontents influential in society?

Malcontents can be quite influential, especially as catalysts in movements for political and social change.

What is the relationship between discontent and mental health?

Chronic discontent can adversely affect mental health, leading to stress and depression.

What causes discontent?

Discontent is typically triggered by a perceived deficiency in one's environment or personal achievements.

Is being a malcontent always negative?

While often viewed negatively, being a malcontent can also lead to necessary social reforms and innovations.

How can one manage discontent in a workplace?

Addressing the root causes of discontent, such as improving working conditions or communication, can mitigate it.

How does discontent affect productivity?

Discontent can decrease productivity by diminishing motivation and engagement.

What type of personality does a malcontent have?

Malcontents often have a skeptical or cynical view of the world, questioning and challenging norms and authorities.

Can a malcontent change their views?

Yes, with changes in circumstances or through personal growth, a malcontent's views can evolve.

Can discontent lead to creativity?

Yes, it can act as a catalyst for creative solutions and innovations.

What role does discontent play in art and literature?

It often serves as a theme that drives narratives and character development.

What historical figures were known as malcontents?

Figures like Martin Luther and Thomas Paine were known for their malcontent views, which led to major societal changes.

How can one identify a malcontent in a group?

They are typically outspoken and frequently in opposition to the group's direction or leadership.

Is there a way to use the energy of a malcontent positively?

Channeling their critical energy towards constructive problem-solving can be beneficial for organizations.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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