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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from calumny

calumnious \ kə-​ˈləm-​nē-​əs How to pronounce calumnious (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

The House has used its investigative apparatus to hurl a continuous series of calumnies at Mueller and the FBI. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "In Year Two, Mueller Is Wading Into a Bottomless Pit of Trump Sleaze," 17 May 2018 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 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 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 Francis eventually walked back his claims of calumny and sent a Vatican special prosecutor to Chile to investigate the claims of coverup. Christopher J. Hale, Time, "Pope Francis’s Failure to Address Abuse Allegations Jeopardizes His Papacy," 6 Feb. 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 Somehow the Bannon brigades outside the White House decided to assail the general as insufficiently pro-Israel and not hostile enough to Islamic State, among other calumnies. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "McMaster and the Commander," 8 Aug. 2017 His calumny was condemned even by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat. Orange County Register, "Letters: Evaluating Obama’s legacy," 8 Jan. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about calumny

Listen to Our Podcast about calumny

Statistics for calumny

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for calumny

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on calumny

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for calumny

Spanish Central: Translation of calumny

Nglish: Translation of calumny for Spanish Speakers

Comments on calumny

What made you want to look up calumny? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing courage and determination

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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