verb vil·i·fy \ ˈvi-lə-ˌfī \
|Updated on: 14 Aug 2018

Definition of vilify

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


play \ˈvi-lə-ˌfī(-ə)r\ noun

vilify was our Word of the Day on 07/31/2015. Hear the podcast!

Examples of vilify in a Sentence

  1. He was vilified in the press for his comments.

  2. claimed that she had been vilified by the press because of her conservative views

Recent Examples of vilify from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of vilify

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

VILIFY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of vilify for English Language Learners

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

VILIFY Defined for Kids


verb vil·i·fy \ ˈvi-lə-ˌfī \

Definition of vilify for Students

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

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up vilify? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


fullness to the point of excess

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet-pasta-spelling-help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!