libel

noun
li·bel | \ˈlī-bəl \

Definition of libel 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a written statement in which a plaintiff in certain courts sets forth the cause of action or the relief sought

b archaic : a handbill especially attacking or defaming someone

2a : a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression

b(1) : a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt

(2) : defamation of a person by written or representational means

(3) : the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures

(4) : the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel

libel

verb
li·bel | \ˈlī-bəl \
libeled or libelled; libeling or libelling\ˈlī-b(ə-)liŋ \

Definition of libel (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to make libelous statements

transitive verb

: to make or publish a libel against (see libel entry 1)

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Other Words from libel

Verb

libeler \ˈlī-b(ə-)lər \ noun
libelist \ˈlī-bə-list \ noun

Examples of libel in a Sentence

Noun

To meet the Supreme Court's definition of libel involving a public figure, a quotation must not only be made up or materially altered. It must also defame the person quoted, and damage his or her reputation or livelihood … — Jane Gross, New York Times, 5 June 1993 It is relevant to note that in 1987 the suit against Ms. Malcolm was dismissed … in a narrow ruling that stated that even if the quotations were "false and mischievous," Ms. Malcolm's alterations did not represent malicious intent and therefore did not constitute libel. — Fred W. Friendly, New York Times Book Review, 25 Feb. 1990 The above is not only a flat lie but a political libel which may possibly damage me. Publish it at your peril … — Bernard Shaw, letter, 16 Sept. 1949 In their tiresome addiction to this use of alleged, the newspapers, though having mainly in mind the danger of libel suits, can urge in further justification the lack of any other single word that exactly expresses their meaning; but the fact that a mud-puddle supplies the shortest route is not a compelling reason for walking through it. — Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right, 1909 He sued the newspaper for libel. The newspaper was found guilty of libel. The newspaper's attorneys argued that the article was not a libel.

Verb

And in Oklahoma last year, lawyers filed a class-action suit against a group supporting tort reform, saying they had libeled trial lawyers. — Judith Miller, New York Times, 11 June 1996 Government officials, he observed, were public servants who remained accountable to the people and therefore could not be libeled for their performance in office. — Leonard W. Levy, Emergence of a Free Press, 1985 The jury found that the article libeled him. the court decided that the newspaper's reportage of the former mayor, while irresponsible, did not constitute an effort to libel him
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In 2015, Monica Berlin filed a lawuit against San Mateo County supervisors, Foster City police and others claiming assault, libel and slander, reported the Half Moon Bay Review. Don Sweeney, sacbee, "Woman says she set hay bale fires to foil zombies and a cult, prosecutors say," 12 July 2018 Since 2015, government officials have filed lawsuits in the pro-Maduro courts against the owners of at least 25 outlets on charges of libel, defamation, and incitement. Washington Post, BostonGlobe.com, "As it slides toward authoritarianism, Venezuela targets one of its last independent newspapers," 6 July 2018 Since 2015, government officials have filed lawsuits in the pro-Maduro courts against the owners of at least 25 outlets on charges of libel, defamation and incitement. Rachelle Krygier, Washington Post, "As it slides toward authoritarianism, Venezuela targets one of its last independent newspapers," 5 July 2018 Besides libel and slander, the lawsuit also accuses Shooter of intentionally inflicting emotional distress. Dustin Gardiner, azcentral, "Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter sued for slander by accuser, Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita," 15 June 2018 In libel lawsuits, four wealthy Russians take more specific exception to the dossier. Washington Post, "Some questions in Trump-Russia dossier now finding answers," 29 June 2018 During depositions taken as part of a 2007 libel lawsuit against Trump biographer Tim O’Brien, Trump admitted to lying publicly more than 30 times in order to avoid lying under oath and perjuring himself. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The raging controversy over whether to call Trump’s lies “lies,” explained," 30 May 2018 Trump subsequently dismissed the claim as fraudulent, leading Daniels to sue him for libel. David Meyer, Fortune, "Here's Why Stormy Daniels Was Just Arrested in Ohio," 12 July 2018 After another anonymous critical review, which Bird denied writing, was posted the following month, the firm sued Bird for libel, seeking damages and an order to remove the postings. Bob Egelko, SFChronicle.com, "Yelp does not have to remove users’ posts, California Supreme Court says," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The virtues of a free press come under attack in another scene, in which a woman dumps a bucket of excrement over the head of a local official, claiming that she has been libeled by a local newspaper. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "Russian drama takes the stage at Cannes in the sweet 'Leto' and the scathing 'Donbass'," 11 May 2018 The two ultimately went to trial because Irving felt libeled that Lipstadt called him a Holocaust denier in her book. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Women Don't Owe Men a Debate About Feminism," 20 Mar. 2018 The attorney said the website libels Sibley, interferes with the recruitment of businesses and new residents, and negatively affects property rights. USA TODAY, "Iowa man who complained about town’s ‘stench’ sues after city officials threaten to sue him," 8 Mar. 2018 Just as the First Amendment’s protects free speech, but doesn’t give a license to people to libel others. Andrés Oppenheimer, miamiherald, "Kudos to Gables’ Mayor Valdes-Fauli for proposing a ban on semi-automatic weapons | Miami Herald," 26 Feb. 2018 Jace Richter, 18, who was released from the football team after the allegations against him went public, also asserts that he was defamed, slandered, libeled and portrayed in a false light, according to the suit filed in early December. Katy Moeller, idahostatesman, "Ex-BSU football player says he was assaulted, defamed in countersuit | Idaho Statesman," 20 Dec. 2017 On top of causing emotional trauma, the suit claims, Goodlett's actions libeled the former students and damaged their reputations. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, "Students knew their nude photos had leaked. They didn't expect their principal was to blame," 28 Sep. 2017 The poll became public when it was submitted by Issa in an unsuccessful lawsuit alleging that Applegate attack ads libeled the incumbent. Martin Wisckol, Orange County Register, "Conservative Darrell Issa turns to the left," 19 Mar. 2017 The courts ruled O’Brien had not libeled him and he was not entitled to $5 billion as a result. vanityfair.com, "Why Melania Trump’s Lawsuit Is the Trumpiest It Gets," 9 Feb. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'libel.' 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 libel

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1588, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for libel

Noun

Middle English, written declaration, from Anglo-French, from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber book

Verb

see libel entry 1

Noun

Anglo-French, from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber book

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Dictionary Entries near libel

Libby

Lib Dem

libeccio

libel

libelant

libelee

libellula

Statistics for libel

Last Updated

2 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for libel

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

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More Definitions for libel

libel

noun

English Language Learners Definition of libel

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the act of publishing a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone

libel

verb

English Language Learners Definition of libel (Entry 2 of 2)

: to write and publish a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of (someone)

libel

noun
li·bel | \ˈlī-bəl \

Kids Definition of libel

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the publication of a false statement that hurts a person's reputation

libel

verb
libeled or libelled; libeling or libelling

Kids Definition of libel (Entry 2 of 2)

: to hurt a person's reputation by publishing a false statement

Other Words from libel

libeler or libeller noun

libel

noun
li·bel | \ˈlī-bəl \

Legal Definition of libel 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : complaint sense 1 used especially in admiralty and divorce cases

2a : a defamatory statement or representation especially in the form of written or printed words specifically : a false published statement that injures an individual's reputation (as in business) or otherwise exposes him or her to public contempt

b : the publication of such a libel

c : the crime or tort of publishing a libel — see also single publication rule, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan — compare defamation, slander

Note: Although libel is defined under state case law or statute, the U.S. Supreme Court has enumerated some First Amendment protections that apply to matters of public concern. In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Court held that in order to recover damages a public person (as a celebrity or politician) who alleges libel (as by a newspaper) has to prove that “the statement was made with ‘actual malice’ — that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not” in order to recover damages. The Court has also held that the states cannot allow a private person to recover damages for libel against a media defendant without a showing of fault (as negligence) on the defendant's part. These protections do not apply to matters that are not of public concern (as an individual's credit report) and that are not published by a member of the mass media. A libel plaintiff must generally establish that the alleged libel refers to him or her specifically, that it was published to others, and that some injury (as to reputation) occurred that gives him or her a right to recover damages (as actual, general, presumed, or special damages). The defendant may plead and establish the truth of the statements as a defense. Criminal libel may have additional elements, as in tending to provoke a breach of peace or in blackening the memory of someone who is dead, and may not have to be published to someone other than the person libeled.

libeled also libelled; libeling also libelling

Legal Definition of libel (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make or publish a libel against : to hurt the reputation of by libel respondent's complaint alleged that he had been libeled by statements in a full-page advertisementNew York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)

2 : to proceed against in law by filing a libel (as against a ship or goods) several French ships were libeled in Boston— J. K. Owens

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