def·​a·​ma·​tion | \ ˌde-fə-ˈmā-shən How to pronounce defamation (audio) \

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 How to pronounce defamatory (audio) , 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

Zach Gibson/Getty Images This latest development adds to a long list of weird antics from Musk, who is also being sued for defamation after calling a diver a pedophile. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Elon Musk’s tweet about taking Tesla private has triggered a federal lawsuit," 27 Sep. 2018 Musk apologized before doubling down a couple times and essentially daring Unsworth to sue for defamation. Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge, "SpaceX gets into space tourism while the Department of Justice gets into Tesla," 21 Sep. 2018 The following year, Ramos sued the author of the article, the newspaper’s publisher and the company that owned it for defamation. Ian Duncan,, "Prosecutors seek access to Capital Gazette shooting suspect's jail mail; his lawyer says that violates his rights," 12 July 2018 News outlets have identified the shooter as Jerrod Ramos, who unsuccessfully sued the newspaper for defamation. Aubrey Nagle,, "Five dead in Annapolis shooting, Philly heat wave arrives as some 'hoods get hotter | Morning Newsletter," 29 June 2018 Ramos reportedly had a long-standing grudge against the Gazette, having once sued them for defamation. Adam Carlson,, "Newspaper Massacre Survivor: 'I Couldn't Give a F---' About Thoughts and Prayers 'If There's Nothing Else'," 29 June 2018 Ramos sued the newspaper for defamation in 2012, alleging he was harmed by an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case. Brian Witte, Anchorage Daily News, "Suspect in Maryland newspaper to appear on 5 murder charges," 29 June 2018 In July 2012, Ramos filed suit against Capital Gazette for defamation, according to the 2015 court filing. Stefan Becket, CBS News, "Jarrod Ramos, 38, identified as suspect in Annapolis shooting," 28 June 2018 Her client roster boasted former supermodel Janice Dickinson, who alleged that Bill Cosby raped her in the 1980s and who is suing the disgraced comedian for defamation. Bryan Smith, Los Angeles Magazine, "How Lisa Bloom Bounced Back From Defending Harvey Weinstein," 8 June 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

22 Mar 2019

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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

formal : 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 How to pronounce defamation (audio) \

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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Comments on defamation

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


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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