as·per·sion | \ə-ˈspər-zhən, -shən\

Definition of aspersion 

1a : a false or misleading charge meant to harm someone's reputation casting aspersions on her integrity

b : the act of making such a charge : defamation

2 : a sprinkling with water especially in religious ceremonies the aspersion of the congregation before Mass

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Aspersion Did Not Always Have Negative Connotations

No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall / To make this contract grow. In this line from Shakespeare's The Tempest, "aspersion" literally refers to a sprinkling of rain, but figuratively means "blessing." Shakespeare's use is true to the heritage of the term. "Aspersion" comes from the Latin word aspersus, itself a derivative of the verb "aspergere," which means "to sprinkle" or "to scatter." When "aspersion" first appeared in English in the 16th century, it referred to the type of sprinklings (for instance, of holy water) that occur in religious ceremonies. But English speakers noted that splatterings can soil and stain, and by the end of the century "aspersion" was also being used for reports that stain or tarnish a reputation.

Examples of aspersion in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Yvonne is distraught, casting ugly aspersions on Madeleine. Robert Abele,, "Review: Jean Cocteau's masterful 1948 'Les Parents Terribles' is a treat for movie lovers," 12 July 2018 Kananaugh remarks were clearly aimed at the Clinton administration, which did cast aspersions on the Starr investigation as a politicized attack that went beyond the limits of its inquiry. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Trump won’t like Brett Kavanaugh’s position on independent investigations of the White House.," 12 July 2018 Last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was bombarded with hundreds of questions from fans via Twitter — along with declarations of adoration and the occasional aspersions — ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting on June 5th. Kirsten Korosec, The Verge, "Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting will decide Elon Musk’s future," 5 June 2018 In the wake of the shooting, local police presented narratives intended to cast aspersions on Mr. Brown’s character and lay out a coherent rationale for his death. Glenn Kenny, New York Times, "Spike Lee’s ‘Pass Over,’ an Offbeat Melding of Cinema and Theater," 11 May 2018 Tayler, while casting aspersions on the contractor Christopher Wylie, who has become a major source for reporting on Cambridge Analytica, also promised to release more information on the company’s practices. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "Cambridge Analytica says it’s conducting a third-party audit over Facebook data," 23 Mar. 2018 With Marsden McClintock and Cilla Barrows, Charles forms a clique of aesthetes who cast aspersions on now-dominant pop and conceptual art. Dan Cryer, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘The Italian Teacher,’ by Tom Rachman," 28 Mar. 2018 Both sides subsequently cast aspersions that the other side is not just morally bankrupt but also factually wrong. Jennifer Carlson, Vox, "Why so many American men want to be the “good guy with a gun”," 23 Mar. 2018 In casting spurious aspersions about subversion at the highest level of the federal government, Johnson has earned comparisons to another, historically infamous Wisconsin senator. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Ron Johnson Is Very Bad at McCarthyism," 7 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'aspersion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of aspersion

circa 1587, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for aspersion

see asperse

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Phrases Related to aspersion

cast aspersions

cast aspersions on

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Time Traveler for aspersion

The first known use of aspersion was circa 1587

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