be·​smirch | \bi-ˈsmərch, bē-\
besmirched; besmirching; besmirches

Definition of besmirch 

transitive verb

: sully, soil besmirching her reputation High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed …— R. A. Newhall

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Synonyms & Antonyms for besmirch


befoul, begrime, bemire, blacken, daub, dirty, distain [archaic], foul, gaum [dialect], grime, mire, muck, muddy, smirch, smudge, soil, stain, sully


clean, cleanse

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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

Material Matters Sturdy, slightly coarse 100% cotton—less likely to be permanently besmirched by sweat or nacho stains than a finer, paler fabric. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "The Chambray Shirt: Why Every Man Needs This All-American Staple," 3 July 2018 And don’t worry about the movie retreading the same ground Johnny Depp besmirched — the film is rumored to be a prequel of some kind. Ben Meyerson, RedEye Chicago, "Lin-Manuel's movie, Starbucks prices go up and more conversation starters for your weekend," 15 June 2018 Neville and his collaborators have done a thorough dig through Rogers’s life and work, drawn from a lifetime of archives right through his death in 2003, but there are no besmirching revelations to be found here. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Mister Rogers' documentary 'Won’t You Be My Neighbor?' is full of sentiment, affection," 8 June 2018 The elegant granite structure, whose architectural character Trump had promised to preserve, was now besmirched by a gaudy, faux-gold sign bearing his name. Nick Tabor, Daily Intelligencer, "501 Days in Swampland," 1 Apr. 2018 For example, a few nitrogen atoms among a diamond’s millions of carbon atoms can make the rock appear yellow or brown, while blue diamonds have been besmirched with a few boron atoms. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Diamonds," 23 Mar. 2018 When Andy Herrera grabbed the besmirched the croqueta, it was smeared in sugary, white frosting. Carlos Frías, miamiherald, "It has vanilla, Nutella filling – and 100 croquetas. Behold Miami’s ‘croqueta cake’," 19 Feb. 2018 The Root would never stoop so low as to besmirch the upstanding character of a great American citizen like Joe Arpaio. Michael Harriot, The Root, "Racist, Corrupt, Senate-Running Convict Joe Arpaio Still Holding On to Birther Claim," 11 Jan. 2018 That may be an overstatement; unlike Mr. Christie, whose former aides implicated him at trial for knowing of the decision to close bridge lanes, Mr. Cuomo has not been similarly besmirched. Jesse Mckinley And Shane Goldmacher, New York Times, "As Jurors Decide Fate of Key Cuomo Ally, Political Verdict May Be In," 6 Mar. 2018

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

circa 1616, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for besmirch

The first known use of besmirch was circa 1616

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English Language Learners Definition of besmirch

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on besmirch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with besmirch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for besmirch

Spanish Central: Translation of besmirch

Nglish: Translation of besmirch for Spanish Speakers

Comments on besmirch

What made you want to look up besmirch? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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