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 defamation (audio) , dē-​ \ adjective

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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 The parents of two Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks file a federal lawsuit against Clinton, seeking damages for wrongful death, defamation, the intentional infliction of emotional distress and more. CNN, 7 Sep. 2021 James, Purvis and Bentley are all being sued for negligence, defamation, invasion of privacy, tortious interference of a business, wrongful use of civil proceedings, abuse of process and civil conspiracy. Ayana Archie, The Courier-Journal, 30 July 2021 This means that there must be a clear intent of defamation, written or spoken, in order for legal action to be taken, which is historically difficult to prove. Lena Camilletti, ABC News, 18 July 2021 The family’s claim seeks monetary damages for negligence, defamation, and civil rights violations, and the infliction of emotional distress, according to multiple reports. Jeremy Beaman, Washington Examiner, 30 Mar. 2021 Stokes’ cellphone video recording of the profane and racist tirade in January is now at the center of a legal claim that charges the Palmdale School District with defamation, negligence, civil rights violations and infliction of emotional distress. James Rainey, Los Angeles Times, 28 Mar. 2021 Southern government officials seized on any error in media reporting to claim defamation, file libel suits and haul those organizations into court. Glenn Harlan Reynolds, WSJ, 24 Mar. 2021 The cases related to a section in the telecommunications law on online defamation, which human rights groups say is used to criminalize dissent. New York Times, 1 Mar. 2021 The filing includes two claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, two claims of interference with prospective economic advantage, and two claims of infliction of emotional distress, for unspecified damages, according to a copy obtained by Vulture. Justin Curto, Vulture, 1 Mar. 2021

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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Last Updated

26 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Defamation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for defamation



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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on defamation

Nglish: Translation of defamation for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defamation for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about defamation


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