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

Example Sentences

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 Khloé Kardashian and Kylie Jenner conspired to defame their brother Rob Kardashian’s former fiancé Blac Chyna and kill the second season of Rob & Chyna, allegedly costing Chyna millions in lost earnings. Nancy Dillon, Rolling Stone, 29 Apr. 2022 Calling into question Malinowski's motivations in introducing the resolution, Brooks accused Democrats of resurrecting worn mechanisms to defame the Right and cement their hold on power. Carly Roman, Washington Examiner, 12 Jan. 2021 After a nine-day trial, a jury deliberated for two days and ultimately ruled that Kris Jenner, 66, Kylie Jenner, 24, and Khloé Kardashian, 37, did not defame Blac Chyna and cost her a reality-TV series. Claudia Rosenbaum, Vulture, 2 May 2022 The fight de-escalated on Monday with both sides dropping their breach of contract claims under an agreement that allows Rapaport to appeal a prior ruling that concluded Barstool and its founder David Portnoy didn’t defame him. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Sep. 2022 The suit alleges McDermott and Smith used their Left of Center podcast to defame his character. Carrie Napoleon, Chicago Tribune, 30 Aug. 2022 On Wednesday, a Montgomery County jury returned a verdict that found Moore did not defame Corfman in his public denials of her 2017 accusations. Paul Gattis |, al, 3 Feb. 2022 Some posters said the marchers were clearly FBI agents or members of antifa — shorthand for anti-fascists — looking to defame Trump supporters. David Klepper, ajc, 9 July 2022 Heard has countersued, claiming Depp directed his lawyers to defame her in the legal process. CBS News, 19 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defame.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 28 Mar. 2023.

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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