be·​smirch bi-ˈsmərch How to pronounce besmirch (audio)
besmirched; besmirching; besmirches

transitive verb

: to cause harm or damage to the purity, luster, or beauty of (something) : sully, soil
besmirching her reputation
High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed …R. A. Newhall
Although the accusations against Normand were unsupported, her name was besmirched.John Lahr
Darwin was exasperated by Wallace's gullibility and feared that his activities would somehow besmirch the theory of evolution.Anthony Gottlieb
The problem is that the vast majority of people of all nations … cherish their national myths too much to want mere facts, or even assertions of historical doubt, to besmirch them.Max Hastings

Did you know?

Since the prefix be- in besmirch means "to make or cause to be," when you besmirch something, you cause it to have a smirch. What's a smirch? A smirch is a stain, and to smirch something is to stain it or make it dirty. By extension, the verb smirch came to mean "to bring discredit or disgrace on." Smirch and besmirch, then, mean essentially the same thing.

Example Sentences

inconsiderately besmirched the carpet with their dirty feet
Recent Examples on the Web Many of those who had been at the camp asserted that those who entered government buildings weren't Bolsonaro supporters at all—but rather infiltrators trying to besmirch the reputation of the former president. Juan Forero, WSJ, 9 Jan. 2023 The enemies of a strong Israel besmirch me, calling me and my party racist. Benjamin Weinthal, Fox News, 9 Oct. 2022 Yet anyone concerned that the result might besmirch their memory of Heat can rest easy. Clark Collis,, 9 Aug. 2022 Do Democrats want to unfairly besmirch the entire GOP with the Jan. 6 disgrace, while distracting voters from 8.6% inflation and $5-a-gallon gasoline? The Editorial Board, WSJ, 10 June 2022 Imagine allowing a breed of humanity as vulgar as actors (wink-wink) to besmirch their palace beautiful. Justin Changfilm Critic, Los Angeles Times, 19 May 2022 And a failure to fulfill the now apparently near-impossible tasks of evacuating all the Afghan translators, workers and fixers on whom the US relied and who now face Taliban retribution would besmirch America’s conscience and global reputation. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 16 Aug. 2021 In 14 minutes of chitchat with Nelson, the most (in)famous high school football coach in America managed to besmirch almost everything beloved in the South and, in doing so, ended up on administrative leave. New York Times, 12 Apr. 2021 The head of the Suez Canal Authority at the time dismissed his remarks as an attempt to besmirch Egypt’s reputation. Rory Jones, WSJ, 31 Mar. 2021 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1604, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of besmirch was in 1604


Dictionary Entries Near besmirch

Cite this Entry

“Besmirch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


be·​smirch bi-ˈsmərch How to pronounce besmirch (audio)
: to make soiled or less pure

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