def·a·ma·tion | \ˌde-fə-ˈmā-shən \

Definition of defamation 


: the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person : the act of defaming another : calumny defamation of character a defamation lawsuit

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Other Words from defamation

defamatory \di-ˈfa-mə-tȯr-ē, dē- \ adjective

Did You Know?

Harming someone's reputation in speech with falsehoods is known as slander, and doing the same thing in writing is known as libel (which sometimes includes speech as well). Any ordinary citizen who can claim to have suffered harm as a result of such defamation may sue. So why aren't politicians suing all the time? Because an exception is made for "public persons" (a category that includes most other celebrities as well), who must also prove that any such statement was made with "reckless disregard for the truth". And although, even by that standard, public persons are defamed all the time, most of them have decided that it's better to just grin and bear it.

Examples of defamation in a Sentence

The article was full of lies and defamations. accused the newspaper columnist of defamation of character

Recent Examples on the Web

Remarks made during public comment may not contain obscenity, commercial advertising or defamation. Karen Farkas,, "Cuyahoga County Council reduces public comment opportunities," 10 Apr. 2018 Guillory objected to the characterization of his relationship with Mayo and claimed defamation, false light invasion of privacy and negligent misrepresentation. Danielle Lerner, The Courier-Journal, "Three reasons Louisville players are unlikely to win lawsuit vs. NCAA," 11 July 2018 Since 2015, government officials have filed lawsuits in the pro-Maduro courts against the owners of at least 25 outlets on charges of libel, defamation, and incitement. Washington Post,, "As it slides toward authoritarianism, Venezuela targets one of its last independent newspapers," 6 July 2018 Police found the suspected gunman, who had previously sued the newspaper unsuccessfully for defamation, hiding under a newsroom desk after the shooting. Kate King, WSJ, "Maryland Paper Grapples With Being the Subject of the News," 29 June 2018 That’s now $4 million less going to less fortunate Australians and leaves a billionaire corporation, proven guilty of malicious defamation, being able to get away with their seriously harmful act for a very low pay day! Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "'Pitch Perfect' star Rebel Wilson ordered by Australian court to pay back $3.1M to magazine publisher," 27 June 2018 Under an open-ended one against defamation, creators of internet memes have been arrested for embarrassing politicians. The Economist, "Why Indonesia is so bad at lawmaking," 21 June 2018 In February 2017, Lattouf and Hamud sued Churchill for breach of contract and defamation, among other things, and are seeking to recover the value of their investments, which could be more than $1 million, the suit said. Sandra Baker, star-telegram, "Well-known North Texas car dealer files bankruptcy as he faces lawsuit by two investors | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 22 May 2018 Atrium, which has countersued Mednax and Southeast for defamation, calls the advertisements part of a smear campaign bent on spreading falsehoods. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "Group seeks court order to stop Atrium from using new anesthesiologists July 1 | Charlotte Observer," 14 May 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defamation

see defame

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Statistics for defamation

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for defamation

The first known use of defamation was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of defamation

: the act of saying false things in order to make people have a bad opinion of someone or something : the act of defaming someone or something


de·fa·ma·tion | \ˌde-fə-ˈmā-shən \

Legal Definition of defamation 

1 : communication to third parties of false statements about a person that injure the reputation of or deter others from associating with that person — see also libel, slander, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan — compare disparagement, false light, slander of title

2 : a defamatory communication every repetition of the defamation is a publication— W. L. Prosser and W. P. Keeton

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