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

In 2016, Blake Shelton filed a defamation lawsuit against the publication for a 2015 cover story that claimed Shelton had a drinking problem, USA Today reports. Eileen Reslen, Country Living, "Christina El Moussa Shuts Down Tabloid Report About Alleged Joanna Gaines Feud," 20 Nov. 2018 The defamation claim is separate from another lawsuit that Daniels filed against Trump, which is ongoing. Amanda Lee Myers, The Seattle Times, "Judge: Michael Avenatti must pay $4.85M in ex-lawyer’s suit," 23 Oct. 2018 As the Wall Street Journal points out, scrapping the agreement wouldn’t end all of Cohen’s and Daniel’s legal entanglements with one another: Daniels also has a defamation claim against Cohen related to his public comments. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Michael Cohen wants to scrap the Stormy Daniels NDA," 8 Sep. 2018 The lawsuit also includes defamation claims over what Cardi B was writing on social media. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Cardi B Files $15M Countersuit Against Ex-Manager," 5 July 2018 Last month, a state appeals court sided with the Diocese of Palm Beach and blocked the Rev. John Gallagher’s defamation claim. Marc Freeman,, "Disgruntled priest asking state Supreme Court to let him sue Catholic Church," 22 June 2018 Trump's attorney had no immediate comment on the defamation claim. NBC News, "Stormy Daniels sues Trump for defamation over 'con job' tweet," 30 Apr. 2018 The request was filed just as Cohen’s legal troubles were multiplying well beyond a defamation claim. Erik Larson,, "Cohen Asks Judge to Toss Stormy Daniels Defamation Claim," 10 Apr. 2018 Meanwhile, the legal fight has escalated, with Daniels filing a defamation claim against Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Cohen's lawyer demanding a retraction and apology from Daniels., "Today: Russia, the Slapdown and the Silence," 27 Mar. 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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Last Updated

13 Dec 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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