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

Further, this allegation is not far from what Summer Zervos—the former Apprentice contestant who filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump—has alleged. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Another Woman Has Accused Donald Trump of Sexual Misconduct," 25 Feb. 2019 When Cardinal O’Malley called for the world-wide adoption of the U.S. practice of publishing accused priests’ names, other Vatican officials privately condemned the practice as defamation. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "‘It Will Cause a Scandal.’ The Pope and a Trusted U.S. Cardinal Clash Over Sex-Abuse Crisis," 14 Feb. 2019 In France, defamation is punishable by a maximum fine of 45,000 euros ($51,500). Sylvie Corbet, The Seattle Times, "6 French women on trial for alleging lawmaker harassed them," 4 Feb. 2019 In 2015, Roberts sued Maxwell for defamation in New York after Maxwell called her a liar in a news interview. Julie K. Brown, The Seattle Times, "Perversion of Justice: Even from jail, sex abuser manipulated the system. His victims were kept in the dark," 4 Dec. 2018 Randazza is also defending far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones against several families of the victims in the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shooting, who are suing him for defamation for propagating the idea that the massacre was a hoax. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The Satanic Temple is divided over its leader’s decision to hire Alex Jones’s lawyer," 9 Aug. 2018 In 2012, Ramos sued Hartley, his editor and the Capital Gazette for defamation in Prince George’s County District Court. Tom Jackman, Washington Post, "Suspect in Capital Gazette shooting had sued paper for defamation," 28 June 2018 Daniels is also suing the president for defamation in New York federal court; a response to her claim is due by July 23. Beth Reinhard,, "Stormy Daniels to meet with prosecutors in Michael Cohen investigation," 24 June 2018 On Tuesday, jurors found the 39-year-old Punk, whose legal name is Phillip Jack Brooks, and Colt Cabana (Scott Colton) not liable for defamation and false light in a case brought by WWE senior ringside physician Dr. Christopher Amann. Michael Mccann,, "What Were the Key Factors Behind CM Punk Winning His Defamation Trial?," 5 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

8 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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More Definitions for defamation



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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