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.

Examples of besmirch in a Sentence

inconsiderately besmirched the carpet with their dirty feet
Recent Examples on the Web These hardy souls, largely indifferent to political and economic turbulence, were the mainstay of the tourist economy during the civil war that besmirched the lives of an entire generation from the 1980s on. Chandrahas Choudhury, Condé Nast Traveler, 1 Mar. 2024 All the political drama not only besmirched the region but called into question the very idea of Latino political representation. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 27 Feb. 2024 Is there any beloved icon from childhood that filmmakers will not bloodily besmirch by turning into horror movies? Clark Collis,, 8 Sep. 2023 The suit, fashioned as a breach of contract action, claims that association leaders, and a handful of rival attorneys in particular, conspired to besmirch his name and damage his law practice. Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Dec. 2023 Eliade’s widow, in particular, loathed anyone who besmirched even the shadow of her husband’s legacy. Dan Piepenbring, Harper's Magazine, 15 Nov. 2023 Trump’s current presidential campaign in some ways is more professionalized and orderly than his past operations — so far not besmirched by as much infighting, sudden staff firings, and other drama. Isaac Arnsdorf,, 23 Aug. 2023 The name of their club’s benefactor was, very clearly, being besmirched. Rory Smith, New York Times, 14 Apr. 2023 Kael knew that those hearings to besmirch a president by investigating corruption were unprecedented. Armond White, National Review, 5 Apr. 2023

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

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 25 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


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

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