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 Justice Department asks to defend Trump in rape accuser E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit Nominations must be sent to the Norwegian Nobel Committee by Feb. 1, meaning the deadline to nominate people for this year’s peace prize has passed. Jan M. Olsen, USA TODAY, "Norwegian lawmaker nominates Trump for Nobel Peace Prize," 10 Sep. 2020 The Justice Department has moved to replace President Trump’s personal lawyers and defend him in a defamation lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll, an author who has accused him of rape. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Justice Department looks to defend Trump in E. Jean Carroll lawsuit," 8 Sep. 2020 Both candidates have come out swinging with attack ads, including one from Schroder that has spurred a defamation lawsuit from Chabot. Scott Wartman, The Enquirer, "Fact check: Chabot attacks Schroder's Board of Health tenure. Here's what the record shows," 2 Sep. 2020 The incident also became an example of real-life consequences of such actions: Watson and Patterson sued Fox for defamation of character. Emily Yahr, Washington Post, "The revealing and disturbing story of America, told through 20 years of reality dating shows," 5 Aug. 2020 Wood is a nationally prominent defamation lawyer who helped a Covington Catholic High School student sue CNN, The Washington Post and other media companies in 2019. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Kenosha updates: Small group continues protest, while police arrest some past curfew," 27 Aug. 2020 Sandmann went on to sue several media outlets for defamation. Marcy De Luna, Houston Chronicle, "Who will speak at the Republican National Convention and how to watch," 24 Aug. 2020 In August, Snyder filed a defamation lawsuit in New Delhi against M.E.A. WorldWide in an attempt to force the company to disclose the source of the articles and whether it was paid to publish them. Ken Belson, New York Times, "Private Infighting Roils Owners of Washington N.F.L. Team," 24 Aug. 2020 Most recently Maxwell was in the headlines amid a court battle over documents from a 2015 civil defamation lawsuit Virginia Roberts Giuffre filed against her. Eric Litke, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Sex crimes by public officials not connected to Ghislaine Maxwell," 31 July 2020

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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Time Traveler for defamation

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

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Statistics for defamation

Last Updated

13 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Defamation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for defamation


How to pronounce defamation (audio)

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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