vil·​i·​fy | \ ˈvi-lə-ˌfī How to pronounce vilify (audio) \
vilified; vilifying

Definition of vilify

transitive verb

1 : to utter slanderous and abusive statements against : defame
2 : to lower in estimation or importance

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Other Words from vilify

vilifier \ ˈvi-​lə-​ˌfī(-​ə)r How to pronounce vilify (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for vilify

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

Did you know?

Vilify came to English by way of the Middle English vilifien and the Late Latin vilificare from the Latin adjective vilis, meaning "cheap" or "vile." It first appeared in English in the 15th century. Also debuting during that time was another verb that derives from vilis and has a similar meaning: vilipend. When they were first used in English, both vilify and vilipend meant to regard someone or something as being of little worth or importance. Vilipend now carries an additional meaning of "to express a low opinion of somebody," while vilify means, more specifically, to express such an opinion publicly in a way that intends to embarrass a person or ruin his or her reputation.

Examples of vilify in a Sentence

He was vilified in the press for his comments. claimed that she had been vilified by the press because of her conservative views
Recent Examples on the Web Putin was also setting a different tone than pro-Kremlin Russian political commentators, who more commonly see Democrats as more hostile to Russia, intent on using human rights as a cudgel to sanction and vilify Moscow. Nicole Gaouette, CNN, 18 June 2021 Former President Donald Trump brought up her story as part of his push to vilify undocumented immigrants as rapists and killers, though the existing evidence shows undocumented status does not correlate with criminality. Eric Levenson, CNN, 28 May 2021 Kaepernick is one of the most important NFL players in the history of the game for his courage, and for that courage NFL commissioner Roger Goodell helped a former President of the United States vilify Kap’s activism. Joseph Goodman |, al, 13 May 2021 Rather than vilify his opponents, Lincoln sought to better understand their positions through empathy. Kotter, Forbes, 28 Apr. 2021 The Rouse Project’s use of these facilities to stoke fear among the community that they might be closed is solely to vilify the CA and control and promote a negative narrative about the organization., 23 Apr. 2021 Reagan liked to vilify governments that help their people. Virginia Heffernan Los Angeles Times, Star Tribune, 23 Apr. 2021 Perhaps the solution to educational problems created by socioeconomic conditions isn’t paying test publishers more money to quantify and vilify students suffering from those very conditions. Akil Bello, Forbes, 7 Apr. 2021 White, who runs a vaccination clinic, also said there’s no reason to vilify those who had the time and patience to wait outside a clinic to get a leftover dose. Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, 27 Mar. 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for vilify

Middle English vilifien, from Late Latin vilificare, from Latin vilis cheap, vile

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Time Traveler for vilify

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The first known use of vilify was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

27 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vilify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for vilify



English Language Learners Definition of vilify

formal : to say or write very harsh and critical things about (someone or something)


vil·​i·​fy | \ ˈvi-lə-ˌfī How to pronounce vilify (audio) \
vilified; vilifying

Kids Definition of vilify

: to speak of harshly and often unfairly The newspaper vilified him for his opinions.

More from Merriam-Webster on vilify

Nglish: Translation of vilify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vilify for Arabic Speakers


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