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 Women who masturbated were said to threaten their virginity, discredit their family, and besmirch her reputation in society. Varuna Srinivasan, Allure, 14 Feb. 2023 None of this is meant to besmirch a GOP that this writer caucuses with as much as it’s meant to encourage a better GOP. John Tamny, Forbes, 24 July 2022 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 See More

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 30 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on besmirch

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

A Good Old-Fashioned Quiz

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?