Malin - Smart or Stupid?


In Lesson 13.1 there is a phrase that says, " j'aurais l'air malin" which is translated as "I would look stupid".
I looked up "malin" in several dictionaries and never found the word stupid associated with it. I fact its primary meaning is smart, clever, cunning. The other meanings include mischievous, evil...but nothing that I could construe as "stupid".

Any thoughts??

toru e

Good question, I found this context in my Oxford Hachette dictionary. It seems to be a particular locution of « avoir l'air malin ».

J'ai eu l'air malin ! =>I looked a right fool! (or I looked like a total fool!)


Thanks for your response, Torusan. I guess this is some obscure phrase that can't be found in many texts, but may or may not be used verbally commonly.
So, do you think if I met a French woman and was talking to her and wanted to give her a compliment, I should not say, "Vous avez l'air maline." but it would be OK to say "Vous etes bien maline".??

toru e

Hmm...not sure, but I would omit the «bien» or other qualifier since it seems to transform it into some other connotation. I would just say  «Vous êtes maligne » to avoid Definition A2 below and possibly call her "difficult", just to be sure. :)

By the way, re-reading the definitions again, I see that under « J'ai eu l'air malin ! », it does say irony as a parenthetical, so I guess it's implied that since the speaker is saying "I seem clever" that he/she is being ironic.

So, here are the other locutions  :

A.  malin/maligne (adj)
1.  intelligent
- il est trop malin pour se laisser prendre - he's too clever to be taken in
- elle ne pas bien/très maligne - she isn't very bright
- j'ai eu l'air malin ! (irony)
- c'est malin ! - very clever! (irony)
- ce n'est pas (très) malin de ta part - that wasn't very clever/bright of you
- bien malin celui qui peut me dire - a prize for anyone who can tell me

2.  difficile
- ce n'est pas plus malin que ça - that's all there is to it
- ce n'est pas bien malin - it's not exactly difficult

3.  mechant
- prendre un malin plaisir à faire - to take a malicious pleasure in doing
- l'esprit malin - the Evil One, the Devil

4.  tumeur

B.  malin/maligne (nom m,f)
1.  personne rusée - clever person
- un petit malin - little devil, smart aleck (irony)
- regardez-moi ce gros malin ! - who's the smart one!
- faire le/son malin - to show off
- jouer au plus malin - to play the wise guy

2.  le Malin - Satan, the Devil


Thanks again, Torusan

Wow, it's funny how one word can have such seemingly contradictory or opposite meanings. Look at the degradation of your definitions above from "intelligent to Satan"!! I think I'd stick with "Vous semblez tres intelligente".

By the way, nice dictionary!



thanks it's really good

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