cal·​um·​ny | \ ˈka-ləm-nē How to pronounce calumny (audio) also ˈkal-yəm- \
plural calumnies

Definition of calumny

1 : a misrepresentation intended to harm another's reputation denounced his opponent for his defamatory insinuations and calumny
2 : the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another's reputation He was the target of calumny for his unpopular beliefs.

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Other Words from calumny

calumnious \ kə-​ˈləm-​nē-​əs How to pronounce calumny (audio) \ adjective
calumniously adverb

Did You Know?

Calumny made an appearance in these famous words from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go." The word had been in the English language for a while, though, before Hamlet uttered it. It first entered English in the 15th century and comes from the Middle French word calomnie of the same meaning. Calomnie, in turn, derives from the Latin word calumnia, (meaning "false accusation," "false claim," or "trickery"), which itself traces to the Latin verb calvi, meaning "to deceive."

Examples of calumny in a Sentence

They uttered calumnies against him. He was the target of calumny for his unpopular beliefs.
Recent Examples on the Web Miller has waved off that claim as calumny, even though Richardson served as Miller’s faithful No. 2 for more than a decade at Xavier and Arizona. Michael Powell, New York Times, "A ‘Drop the Mic’ Moment for a Man Who Paid College Basketball Recruits," 17 Mar. 2020 Rumors circulated that during a prerelease screening in California, the couple declared the film a calumny. John Kelly, Washington Post, "Yes, Billy Jack went to Washington. He did not enjoy his visit.," 7 Dec. 2019 Contrary to the calumnies offered by both progressives and populists, Trump isn’t just a blunter version of previous Republican presidents and conservative leaders. John Hood, National Review, "New Nationalists Make Three Big Bets," 28 Aug. 2019 But the government contends that the bill is needed to patch gaps in existing legislation, allowing faster action to stop the spread of calumny through social media as well as in print. The Economist, "Asian countries launch phoney assaults on fake news," 5 Apr. 2018 To be sure, its taboos have helped keep the most horrific slurs and calumnies out of the public sphere. Yascha Mounk, The New Republic, "Germany’s risky law for stopping hate speech on Facebook and Twitter," 3 Apr. 2018 The Post still has an engaged readership, but so too do many publications, and social media feeds, that spread calumny and discord instead of facts. Daniel D'addario, Time, "The Post Is an Urgent Reminder of How Much Journalism Matters. Especially Now," 5 Jan. 2018 As these parties are forced to work together across traditional political cleavages, this old calumny is increasingly turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yascha Mounk, Slate Magazine, "The End of the German Exception," 24 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'calumny.' 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 calumny

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for calumny

Middle English calumnye, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French calomnie, from Latin calumnia, from calvi to deceive; perhaps akin to Old English hōlian to slander, Greek kēlein to beguile

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The first known use of calumny was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Calumny.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for calumny



English Language Learners Definition of calumny

formal : an untrue statement that is made to damage someone's reputation also : the act of making such statements

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for calumny

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