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

Definition of besmirch

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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for besmirch



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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" is to stain or make dirty. By extension, "to smirch" came to mean "to bring discredit or disgrace on." "Smirch" and "besmirch," then, mean essentially the same thing. We have William Shakespeare to thank for the variation in form. Shakespeare's 1599 use of the term in Henry V is the first known appearance of "besmirch" in English.

Examples of besmirch in a Sentence

inconsiderately besmirched the white bedsheets with their dirty feet
Recent Examples on the Web This culture of indifference is only reinforced when men such as Simmons receive carte blanche to publicly besmirch their accusers—especially under the guise of social justice. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Why Don’t Black Women Matter to Hip-Hop?," 2 July 2020 In what appears to be a shameless attempt to attract shoppers considering a crossover—or those who are too rich to be seen in a Subaru Outback—Mercedes-Benz has besmirched its once elegant E-class wagon with faux ruggedness. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, "2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon Succumbs to Cladding," 3 Mar. 2020 Shortly after Seberg’s body was found, the FBI announced that agents had attempted to besmirch her reputation in 1970. Susan Kingwriter, Los Angeles Times, "The real life Jean Seberg and the tragic tale behind Kristen Stewart’s ‘Seberg’," 26 Feb. 2020 Australians pride themselves on their natural surroundings, and as, week after week, people emerge from a swim besmirched with ash or struggling to breathe, the sense of outrage and terror has grown. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, "Australia: The Fires and Our Future," 16 Jan. 2020 Continuing to allow Iran to hold hostage the right of women to be a visible part of their culture and to use soccer as a tool to diminish and discredit women and girls besmirches the game that FIFA exists to govern and protect. Kely Nascimento-deluca, Quartz, "Iran proves that lifting its ban on women in soccer stadiums is a gauge, not a win," 22 Oct. 2019 But steady results eluded him and his final seasons at both schools were besmirched with losing records. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "How Michigan State football's Mark Dantonio became a victim of his own success," 12 Oct. 2019 Recently, as readers of this roundup may remember, directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have been besmirching the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wired, "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," 24 Oct. 2019 The other was engaged by a fictional competitor to that company to attack its reputation on social media and besmirch its heretofore nonexistent reputation. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Rent-a-troll: Researchers pit disinformation farmers against each other," 10 Oct. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of besmirch

1604, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of besmirch was in 1604

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Cite this Entry

“Besmirch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for besmirch


How to pronounce besmirch (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of besmirch

: to cause harm or damage to (the reputation of someone or something)

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