besmirch

verb
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

Synonyms

Antonyms

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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 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 Yet Judge Sullivan chose to besmirch both the Barr effort and the judiciary by matching James Comey’s FBI for Trump Derangement Syndrome. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, 10 Dec. 2020 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, 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, 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, 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, 16 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for besmirch

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The first known use of besmirch was in 1604

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Dictionary Entries Near besmirch

besmear

besmirch

besmirchment

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Last Updated

20 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Besmirch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/besmirch. Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for besmirch

besmirch

verb

English Language Learners Definition of besmirch

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

More from Merriam-Webster on besmirch

Nglish: Translation of besmirch for Spanish Speakers

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