be·​smirch | \ bi-ˈsmərch How to pronounce besmirch (audio) , 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

Ashley insists upon besmirching my mother, her reputation, with some conspiracy theories. Dave Quinn,, "Ashley Jacobs Returns to Southern Charm, Calls Dating Thomas Ravenel 'the Worst Year of My Life'," 10 July 2019 But the four-ish minutes of TV was mesmerizing, a strange piercing of the Bravo forcefield that usually manages to keep the goings-on of the real world separate from besmirching the antics of its cast. Bridget Read, Vogue, "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," 17 Apr. 2019 All signs point to a future besmirched by the likes of Pablo Escobar, compared to whom the current combatants are harmless villagers. WSJ, "‘Birds of Passage’ Review: Splendor and the Grass," 14 Feb. 2019 At 9:03 Eastern, the left is going to be in the process of trying to smear, besmirch, slander, destroy the character of whoever the president picks. Fox News, "Senate fight awaits Trump's Supreme Court pick," 10 July 2018 The Arc de Triomphe, which cradles the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and was visited by world leaders last month to mark the centenary of the end of World War I, was besmirched with graffiti and vandalized inside. Elaine Ganley, The Seattle Times, "Violent protests in France reveal a hard-to-heal fracture," 4 Dec. 2018 When President Trump calls the next judge for nomination to the Supreme Court or any other court, will that person be willing to be dragged through the mud for political purposes, having his or her life turned upside down and name besmirched? WSJ, "Brett Kavanaugh, Presumption and Fairness," 27 Sep. 2018 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

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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Statistics for besmirch

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

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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 form ideas or theories about something

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