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 In 2017, Rendon sued Bloomberg LP, the publisher of Bloomberg News, for defamation. Alex Vasquez,, "Venezuelan Legislators Ask Guaido to Fire Aides After Raid," 13 May 2020 Corbyn never formulated a convincing answer to why there was a backlog of unresolved disciplinary cases related to anti-Semitism and why the party’s treatment of whistleblowers spurred them to sue it for defamation. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, "Healing the Rift With Britain’s Jews," 9 Apr. 2020 Trump has denied the allegation and is suing Carroll for defamation. Kristen Bellstrom, Fortune, "The Fortune 500 loses another female CEO," 31 Jan. 2020 Flater’s husband, Scott Flater, and father sued the Santa Rosa Press Democrat for defamation after the newspaper documented Scott Flater’s independent expenditures to support three Santa Rosa City Council candidates. Rachel Swan,, "Battle heats up in North Bay over proposed tax extension for SMART train," 16 Jan. 2020 After prevailing in a defamation suit and emerging mostly unscathed from a court fight with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, Musk was not shy about suing Alameda County. Ed Ludlow,, "Tesla plant buzzing ahead of permission to resume operations," 13 May 2020 Read More: Musk Emerges as Loudest Reopen Proponent After prevailing in a defamation suit and emerging mostly unscathed from a court fight with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, Musk is waging another legal battle. Edward Ludlow,, "Tesla Can Reopen California Plant With New Measures, County Says," 11 May 2020 The defense team also includes Louis Petrich, who successfully defended filmmakers in a defamation suit sparked by The Wolf of Wall Street. Ashley Cullins, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Hustlers' Producers Say Woman Who Inspired J.Lo Character Wants to Pull Another Con," 17 Apr. 2020 Massie faces a primary challenge from attorney Todd McMurtry, a lawyer who represented Covington Catholic students in a defamation lawsuit against major media companies. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "'Grandstander,' 'un-American': Thomas Massie becomes bipartisan villain over threat of stimulus delay," 27 Mar. 2020

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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Time Traveler for defamation

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

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Statistics for defamation

Last Updated

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Defamation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for defamation


How to pronounce defamation (audio)

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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