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noun li·bel \ˈlī-bəl\

Simple Definition of libel

  • : the act of publishing a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone

Full Definition of libel

  1. 1 a :  a written statement in which a plaintiff in certain courts sets forth the cause of action or the relief sought b archaic :  a handbill especially attacking or defaming someone

  2. 2 a :  a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression b (1) :  a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt (2) :  defamation of a person by written or representational means (3) :  the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures (4) :  the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel

Examples of libel

  1. To meet the Supreme Court's definition of libel involving a public figure, a quotation must not only be made up or materially altered. It must also defame the person quoted, and damage his or her reputation or livelihood … —Jane Gross, New York Times, 5 June 1993

  2. It is relevant to note that in 1987 the suit against Ms. Malcolm was dismissed … in a narrow ruling that stated that even if the quotations were “false and mischievous,” Ms. Malcolm's alterations did not represent malicious intent and therefore did not constitute libel. —Fred W. Friendly, New York Times Book Review, 25 Feb. 1990

  3. The above is not only a flat lie but a political libel which may possibly damage me. Publish it at your peril … —Bernard Shaw, letter, 16 Sep. 1949

  4. In their tiresome addiction to this use of alleged, the newspapers, though having mainly in mind the danger of libel suits, can urge in further justification the lack of any other single word that exactly expresses their meaning; but the fact that a mud-puddle supplies the shortest route is not a compelling reason for walking through it. —Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right, 1909

  5. He sued the newspaper for libel.

  6. The newspaper was found guilty of libel.

  7. The newspaper's attorneys argued that the article was not a libel.

Origin of libel

Middle English, written declaration, from Anglo-French, from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber book

First Known Use: 14th century

Rhymes with libel



verb li·bel \ˈlī-bəl\

Simple Definition of libel

  • : to write and publish a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of (someone)

Full Definition of libel

li·beled or li·belledli·bel·ing or li·bel·ling play \-b(ə-)liŋ\

  1. intransitive verb
  2. :  to make libelous statements

  3. transitive verb
  4. :  to make or publish a libel against (see 1libel)

li·bel·er play \-b(ə-)lər\ noun
li·bel·ist play \-bə-list\ noun

Examples of libel

  1. And in Oklahoma last year, lawyers filed a class-action suit against a group supporting tort reform, saying they had libeled trial lawyers. —Judith Miller, New York Times, 11 June 1996

  2. Government officials, he observed, were public servants who remained accountable to the people and therefore could not be libeled for their performance in office. —Leonard W. Levy, Emergence of a Free Press, 1985

  3. The jury found that the article libeled him.

  4. <the court decided that the newspaper's reportage of the former mayor, while irresponsible, did not constitute an effort to libel him>

Origin of libel

(see 1libel)

First Known Use: 1588

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February 14, 2016

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