as·​per·​sion ə-ˈspər-zhən How to pronounce aspersion (audio)
: a false or misleading charge meant to harm someone's reputation
casting aspersions on her integrity
: the act of making such a charge : defamation
: 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 Each apologized profusely, but qualified it with vicious aspersions on the other. John Jeremiah Sullivan, Harper's Magazine, 14 Aug. 2023 Klimek: There's some aspersions about men with facial hair there. Chris Klimek, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 July 2023 Not to cast any aspersions at any other demographic, but there’s been a very severe misrepresentation on stages, not just gender-wise, but color-, every-identity-wise. Stephanie Clifford, ELLE, 8 Mar. 2023 The quotations because the term is more one of aspersion than a real pointer to a specific and discrete movement at this point. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 29 Dec. 2011 Though Smith’s actions cast no aspersion on the sisters, his win for playing their father was stained with apology rather than triumph, and that’s too bad. Los Angeles Times, 28 Mar. 2022 The Dodgers is not a vague aspersion on the character of Brooklynites, where the team, now in Los Angeles, was formed. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Nov. 2020 But without casting aspersions here, and Pebley and Drew seem sincere in their suggestions, a large, large number of coaches have bonus clauses for making the NCAA Tournament. Chuck Carlton, Dallas News, 15 Mar. 2020 But skeptics argue that the practice unfairly casts aspersions on large groups of family members who are likely uninvolved in crime. Tony Plohetski, USA TODAY, 16 Feb. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aspersion.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see asperse

First Known Use

circa 1587, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of aspersion was circa 1587


Dictionary Entries Near aspersion

Cite this Entry

“Aspersion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


as·​per·​sion ə-ˈspər-zhən How to pronounce aspersion (audio)
: an evil report or false charge
cast aspersions on a person

More from Merriam-Webster on aspersion

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