def·​a·​ma·​tion ˌde-fə-ˈmā-shən How to pronounce defamation (audio)
: 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
defamatory 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 April, Brian Hood sued OpenAI for defamation when ChatGPT falsely claimed that Hood had been convicted for a foreign bribery scandal. Benj Edwards, Ars Technica, 17 Nov. 2023 In the days leading up to the trial in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News, the network’s top brass began to realize there was a major problem in their legal defense strategy. Paolo Confino, Fortune, 15 Nov. 2023 Fox News is also facing a defamation lawsuit from Ray Epps, a protester at the Jan. 6 riots who said the network falsely identified him as an FBI informant. Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 2023 Fox is still fighting a separate defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting machine company that was accused of rigging the 2020 election and is seeking more than $2 billion in damages. Marshall Cohen, CNN, 16 Oct. 2023 The case is among four criminal prosecutions the former president faces, in addition to the ongoing civil fraud suit and a defamation suit. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 5 Oct. 2023 The defamation suit by Dominion Voting certainly documented just how close the relationship is, even beyond what was already known. Oliver Darcy, CNN, 4 Oct. 2023 Despite his lawyers being informed of Brody’s defamation claim in August, Bankston has said that Musk has declined to either retract his unfounded accusation or apologize for it. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 2 Oct. 2023 Bauer had sued Hill for defamation and in the process obtained the video. Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times, 25 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'defamation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see defame

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near defamation

Cite this Entry

“Defamation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Legal Definition


de·​fa·​ma·​tion ˌde-fə-ˈmā-shən How to pronounce defamation (audio)
: 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
: a defamatory communication
every repetition of the defamation is a publicationW. L. Prosser and W. P. Keeton

More from Merriam-Webster on defamation

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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