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

After the deadline for response passes, attorney Harder sent the New York Times an 18-page off-the-record memo threatening a defamation suit and asks for two weeks to respond. Melanie Schuman, CNN, "New book 'She Said' details how investigation into Harvey Weinstein unfolded, with the New York Times at the center," 10 Sep. 2019 One America News filed the federal defamation suit in San Diego. Washington Post, "One America News sues Rachel Maddow for $10 million," 9 Sep. 2019 Amber Heard has added a prominent voice to her legal team and has filed new court papers arguing for the dismissal of her ex-husband Johnny Depp's defamation suit over an op-ed in The Washington Post. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Amber Heard Takes New Shot at Dismissing Johnny Depp's Defamation Suit," 6 Sep. 2019 The defamation suit was settled out of court by Maxwell in 2017. Linda Givetash, NBC News, "Epstein accuser says Prince Andrew should 'come clean'," 28 Aug. 2019 Last week, documents were unsealed in a defamation suit that Virginia Giuffre had filed in 2015 against Ghislaine Maxwell, whose relationship with Epstein is somewhat opaque, and who Giuffre alleges aided him in abusing her. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "The Failure to See What Jeffrey Epstein Was Doing," 18 Aug. 2019 The material was gathered as part of the defamation suit brought by Giuffre against Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell that was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2017. Beth Reinhard,, "Jeffrey Epstein court filings describe system he allegedly used to procure girls," 10 Aug. 2019 Daniels filed a federal defamation suit in January seeking $2 million that alleged that officers were retaliating against her for embarrassing the president., "Police officers who arrested Stormy Daniels at strip club are disciplined but department won’t say why," 1 Aug. 2019 Despite widespread attention to his role in the Epstein case — and a defamation suit from one of his accusers — Dershowitz has no intention of laying low. Anna North, Vox, "Alan Dershowitz helped sex offender Jeffrey Epstein get a plea deal. Now he’s tweeting about age of consent laws.," 30 July 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

20 Sep 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

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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