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

Attorneys for Roy Moore have asked a judge to rule in his favor and dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed by Leigh Corfman, bypassing a jury trial and bringing an end to the case brought by Moore’s most prominent accuser. Paul Gattis |,, "Citing right to self-defense, Roy Moore asks for end of Corfman lawsuit," 2 July 2019 One need only recall the defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones for his conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook shooting, which were broadcast on his radio show and spread on YouTube. WSJ, "Should the Government Regulate Social Media?," 25 June 2019 The ominous prediction echoes comments by Scott last fall in a defamation lawsuit by former USC football assistant coach Todd McNair against the NCAA. Melody Gutierrez,, "‘Fair Pay to Play’ one step closer to reality for college athletes in California," 25 June 2019 Smollett is also currently facing a defamation lawsuit from the Osundario brothers, who may be accomplices in Smollett’s case. Meagan Fredette,, "Jussie Smollett's Case Takes A Turn As Judge Orders A Special Prosecutor," 24 June 2019 There was even a defamation lawsuit by the two brothers who allege that Smollett paid them to help him stage the attack on himself. Don Babwin, The Denver Post, "Judge orders special prosecutor to examine Jussie Smollett probe," 22 June 2019 The Apprentice’’ who accused him of unwanted kissing and groping, can move forward with her defamation lawsuit against him. Darlene Superville,, "Trump denies knowing N.Y. woman accusing him of sexual assault," 22 June 2019 The couple settled a defamation lawsuit with the city for $2.5 million. Ashley Mcbride,, "Vallejo appoints Joe Allio as new interim police chief," 18 June 2019 The legal notice, dated April 12, said Wright intended to sue Buterin in the U.K. for defamation. Olga Kharif,, "Craig Wright says he invented bitcoin. Now he’s suing those who doubt him," 20 June 2019

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

12 Jul 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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