1

libel

noun li·bel \ ˈlī-bəl \
Updated on: 22 Nov 2017

Definition of libel

1 a : 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
2 a : 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

Examples of libel in a Sentence

  1. 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 GrossNew York Times5 June 1993
  2. 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. FriendlyNew York Times Book Review25 Feb. 1990
  3. The above is not only a flat lie but a political libel which may possibly damage me. Publish it at your peril … —Bernard Shawletter16 Sept. 1949
  4. 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 BierceWrite It Right1909
  5. He sued the newspaper for libel.

  6. The newspaper was found guilty of libel.

  7. The newspaper's attorneys argued that the article was not a libel.

Recent Examples of libel from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of libel

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


2

libel

verb li·bel \ ˈlī-bəl \

Definition of libel

libeled or libelled; libeling or libelling play \ˈlī-b(ə-)liŋ\
intransitive verb
: to make libelous statements
transitive verb
: to make or publish a libel against (see 1libel)

libeler

play \ˈlī-b(ə-)lər\ noun

libelist

play \ˈlī-bə-list\ noun

Examples of libel in a Sentence

  1. And in Oklahoma last year, lawyers filed a class-action suit against a group supporting tort reform, saying they had libeled trial lawyers. —Judith MillerNew York Times11 June 1996
  2. 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. LevyEmergence of a Free Press1985
  3. The jury found that the article libeled him.

  4. the court decided that the newspaper's reportage of the former mayor, while irresponsible, did not constitute an effort to libel him

Recent Examples of libel from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of libel

see 1libel


LIBEL Defined for English Language Learners

libel

noun

Definition of libel for English Language Learners

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


libel

verb

Definition of libel for English Language Learners

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


LIBEL Defined for Kids

1

libel

noun li·bel \ ˈlī-bəl \

Definition of libel for Students

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

2

libel

verb

Definition of libel for Students

libeled or libelled; libeling or libelling
: to hurt a person's reputation by publishing a false statement

libeler

or libeller noun

Law Dictionary

1

libel

noun li·bel \ ˈlī-bəl \

legal Definition of libel

1 : complaint 1 used especially in admiralty and divorce cases
2 a : 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.

Origin and Etymology of libel

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


2

libel

transitive verb

legal Definition of libel

libeled also libelled; libeling also libelling
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 advertisement
  • New 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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