as·​per·​sion | \ ə-ˈspər-zhən How to pronounce aspersion (audio) , -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 This isn't to cast aspersions at Collison, who retired over the summer. J. Michael, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Pacers' pick-and-roll opens doors for better offense despite missing key starters," 14 Nov. 2019 Barr's critics say his efforts to investigate the investigators are meant to placate Trump - even if that means casting aspersions on U.S. law enforcement and intelligence. Anchorage Daily News, "Those facing scrutiny suspect Barr is chasing conspiracy theories," 6 Oct. 2019 Political opponents and hired guns sling mud and cast aspersions, sometimes concocting things from whole cloth. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Who wrote the op-ed? Will the government shut down? Denials pile up in Washington," 10 Sep. 2018 The tweets were largely criticisms of either Guo’s character or cast aspersions on his relationships with anti-China US politicians such as Steve Bannon. Jane Li, Quartz, "These are the people China-linked Twitter accounts attacked before Hong Kong protests," 3 Sep. 2019 The true intent of the brief, however, is to cast aspersions on the integrity of the Court itself. David French, National Review, "To Save a Bad Gun Law, Democratic Senators Threaten the Supreme Court," 15 Aug. 2019 Liverpool already possess arguably the most deadly frontline in England, which also casts aspersions over any potential deal of that size for them., "Nicolas Pepe Has 'Heart Set on Premier League Move' Despite Liverpool's Stance on Lille Forward," 29 June 2019 To cast such trite aspersions is like saying that women can’t have long hair the other side of 40. Longreads, "True Roots," 5 June 2019 For years, Chief Justice Roberts remained silent as Mr. Trump goaded the judiciary with tweets on individual judges and cast aspersions that political agendas rather than legal reasoning had prompted courts to rule against him. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Chief Justice Roberts Rebuts Trump’s Attacks on Judges, and President Tweets Back," 21 Nov. 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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Time Traveler for aspersion

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The first known use of aspersion was circa 1587

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Last Updated

25 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Aspersion.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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More from Merriam-Webster on aspersion

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for aspersion

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with aspersion

Spanish Central: Translation of aspersion

Nglish: Translation of aspersion for Spanish Speakers

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