Maleficent: What’s in a name?

Walt Disney Pictures’ 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty introduced the beloved villainous figure known as Maleficent. Like the characters of many fairy tales, the evil fairy in the original story is not named.

Maleficent, though, with her head wrap that hinted at demon-like horns, has become almost synonymous with evil. So much so that she was chosen out of a plethora of Disney villains to be a major villain in the Kingdom Hearts video game.


However, this blog post isn’t about the 1959 film, but the 2014 live action film named after the villain. I enjoyed Maleficent. The retelling was interesting, if a bit predictable. Angelina Jolie’s performance as the titular character was as brilliant as I would have expected.

Maleficent spoiler alert

One critique I have of the movie, though, is actually that the character’s name makes no sense for this story. I don’t know if many people know about this, but her name is an actual English word:

maleficent dictionary dot com

Definition of “maleficent” from

That made sense for the animated film. That Maleficent was an evil fairy with no redeeming qualities presented at any time in the film. But for the live action film, that name makes no sense. Am I to just accept that a sweet little fairy girl was given a name by her parents (or whoever named her) that means “harmfully malicious”?

I have to wonder if the writers of the 2014 film knew what the word meant… I mean, it would have been simple to have given the child fairy another name, and then have her either give herself the name Maleficent when she becomes the wicked person of her adulthood, or have her be called that by her people, or the humans of the neighbouring land.

Giving a character a name can be hard, especially for fantasy stories, so maybe I should be so hard on them, but this discrepancy is actually the biggest issue I have with the film.

Oh, well.

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