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

Chief executive James McGibney says he isn't concerned about defamation suits. Sarah Pratt, Marie Claire, "The New Tool to Expose Cheaters," 7 July 2011 Earlier this year, Rigmaiden sued NBCUniversal, CNBC's parent company, and an Arizona Republic journalist shown in that episode, accusing them all of defamation. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Convicted tax fraudster sues CNBC for defamation, says he’s not a “hacker”," 19 Nov. 2018 Ramos accused the Capital of defamation and sued, representing himself in court, unsuccessfully. Richard Winton,, "Suspect in Maryland mass shooting had long-standing grievance with the newspaper that was attacked," 29 June 2018 Ramos, a resident of Laurel, Maryland, sued the newspaper in 2012, accusing a former reporter of defamation following a piece about criminal harassment charges Ramos pleaded guilty to, the Capital Gazette reported in 2015. Jared Gilmour, miamiherald, "Who is Jarrod Ramos? What we know about suspected Capital Gazette newsroom shooter," 28 June 2018 During her career, Ms. Lankesh, 55, had been sued several times, accused of defamation by leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Maria Abi-habib, New York Times, "Same Gun Was Used to Kill Two Critics of Hindu Nationalists in India," 8 June 2018 Attorney Alan Greenberg of Los Angeles defended Cosby against McKee’s charges of defamation. Patricia Montemurri, Detroit Free Press, "Bill Cosby accuser from Detroit takes defamation suit to Supreme Court," 4 May 2018 Over three decades in business, Donald Trump faced 4,095 lawsuits over everything from contract disputes to claims of defamation. Ryan Teague Beckwith, Time, "President Trump Has a Lot of Legal Problems. Like, a Lot of Legal Problems," 2 May 2018 In 1998, Sharpton and two others were convicted of defamation, leading to a $345,000 payout. John Sharp,, "Into a Waffle House divided, marches Al Sharpton," 1 May 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

3 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


highly pertinent or appropriate

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