de·​fame di-ˈfām How to pronounce defame (audio)
defamed; defaming

transitive verb

law : to harm the reputation of by communicating false statements about : to harm the reputation of by libel (see libel entry 1 sense 2a) or slander (see slander entry 2 sense 2)
defamed her character
archaic : accuse
defamed of witchcraft
archaic : disgrace
defamer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for defame

malign, traduce, asperse, vilify, calumniate, defame, slander mean to injure by speaking ill of.

malign suggests specific and often subtle misrepresentation but may not always imply deliberate lying.

the most maligned monarch in British history

traduce stresses the resulting ignominy and distress to the victim.

so traduced the governor that he was driven from office

asperse implies continued attack on a reputation often by indirect or insinuated detraction.

both candidates aspersed the other's motives

vilify implies attempting to destroy a reputation by open and direct abuse.

no criminal was more vilified in the press

calumniate imputes malice to the speaker and falsity to the assertions.

falsely calumniated as a traitor

defame stresses the actual loss of or injury to one's good name.

sued them for defaming her reputation

slander stresses the suffering of the victim.

town gossips slandered their good name

Examples of defame in a Sentence

He says he was defamed by reports that falsely identified him as a former gangster. of course I want to win the election, but I refuse to defame my opponent in order to do so
Recent Examples on the Web The biggest question for critics is why Bailey is using state resources to defend senators who allegedly defamed a private citizen. Kacen Bayless, Kansas City Star, 8 May 2024 The lawsuit alleges Gibson defamed her and publicly disclosed private information about Mitchell and their daughter Shayla, 16, in a series of Instagram posts published between April 30 and May 7, according to the complaint obtained by PEOPLE. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 8 May 2024 Sandmann sued, saying the news coverage had unfairly defamed him. Andrew Wolfson, USA TODAY, 25 Mar. 2024 In his civil suit, Wilson accuses Netflix of defaming him and his son by knowingly manipulating his words and involvement in the admissions scandal. Wire Service, The Mercury News, 15 Mar. 2024 Favre, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member who lives in Mississippi, filed lawsuits in February 2023 accusing White and two national sportscasters of defaming him in public discussions about welfare misspending. Emily Wagster Pettus, Fortune, 6 Feb. 2024 Last year, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was held liable for defaming two Georgia election workers. Sasha Hupka, The Arizona Republic, 28 Mar. 2024 Earlier this year, the former president took the stand in a New York defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, in which he was ordered to pay $83 million for defaming her. Olivia Rubin, ABC News, 25 Mar. 2024 Then, this month, he was hit with an additional penalty of $83.3 million in damages for continuing to defame Carroll. Adam Reiss, NBC News, 18 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'defame.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French deffamer, diffamer, from Medieval Latin defamare, alteration of Latin diffamare, from dis- + fama reputation, fame

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of defame was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near defame

Cite this Entry

“Defame.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


de·​fame di-ˈfām How to pronounce defame (audio)
defamed; defaming
: to injure or destroy the reputation of : speak evil of : libel
defamer noun

Legal Definition


transitive verb
de·​fame di-ˈfām How to pronounce defame (audio)
defamed; defaming
: to make the subject of defamation
defamer noun

Medieval Latin defamare, alteration of Latin diffamare to spread news of, defame, from dis-, prefix marking dispersal or removal + fama reputation

More from Merriam-Webster on defame

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