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

transitive verb

: to utter slanderous and abusive statements against : defame
: to lower in estimation or importance
vilifier noun

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.

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

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 Then, too, conservatives vilified the LGBTQ+ community to fuel fear that children were in danger and American society was on the brink of collapse. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, 24 Nov. 2023 Briggs cited, in part, Stephan’s campaign material from 2018 that vilified antifa as a public safety threat and linked the group to George Soros, a billionaire liberal activist and a favorite target of conservative ire who donated money to support Stephan’s opponent. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Nov. 2023 When trans experiences are discounted or vilified, researchers found, danger follows. Ct Jones, Rolling Stone, 13 Nov. 2023 The absurdity of an atheist communist state, which continuously vilifies the Dalai Lama and bans the display of his portrait, attempting to dictate his reincarnation is not lost on observers. Lobsang Sangay, Foreign Affairs, 6 Nov. 2023 But Ferrer points out that that notion is just another example of the powerful trying to vilify those on the margins. WIRED, 26 Oct. 2023 Cohen and Trump had not seen each other in person since that plea, and in the years since the former friends have often sought to vilify each other. Graham Kates, CBS News, 25 Oct. 2023 There are modern day accusations of witchcraft, not using that word, vilifying of women that take place every day here in America. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 26 Oct. 2023 Denying climate change and vilifying climate activists remain powerful weapons in the fossil fuel industry’s arsenal, and the industry has worked in concert to wage international campaigns against protesters. Claire Ravenscroft, The New Republic, 21 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vilify.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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


Dictionary Entries Near vilify

Cite this Entry

“Vilify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


vil·​i·​fy ˈvil-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce vilify (audio)
vilified; vilifying
: to speak of as wicked
vilifier noun

More from Merriam-Webster on vilify

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