vil·i·fy | \ˈvi-lə-ˌfī \
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 \ 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

Before the election, Orban's political campaign vilified Soros, and his activity supporting civil society, on billboards nationwide. NBC News, "George Soros' Open Society Foundations pulls out of Hungary," 15 May 2018 What will be said in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that might have been thwarted had not federal officials been hamstrung by concerns about being vilified at a later date? WSJ, "Democratic Leaders Have Known Since 2001," 14 May 2018 But Wayne Huizenga is vilified in South Florida for his role in dismantling the Florida Marlins after their 1997 World Series victory. Peter King,, "Odell Beckham Trade to the Rams: Counting the Ways The Rumored Blockbuster Could Make Sense," 28 Mar. 2018 Trump belittling #MeToo (while vilifying a female senator) will likely only add to the criticism his administration has received over its decision to bring on former Fox News executive Bill Shine as the communications director for the White House. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Trump mocks Elizabeth Warren’s heritage with talk of offering her a DNA test," 6 July 2018 Photo: Fazry Ismail/EPA/Shutterstock Ms. Rosmah has said that the police raids were designed to vilify the family. James Hookway, WSJ, "Malaysia’s Tall Order: Trying to Recoup 1MDB Funds," 22 June 2018 The man who once vilified George W. Bush for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina was joining the birther president? Jason Whitlock, WSJ, "Kanye Had One of the Best Tweets of All Time," 7 May 2018 In the hours since authorities described the deputy’s response, he has been vilified by his own department, the community and President Trump. William Wan And Amy Ellis Nutt, Washington Post, "Why didn't the officer rush into Florida's Parkland school mass shooting?," 23 Feb. 2018 Also, American heroes is trapped under the hip everyday by being vilified by members of congress and the media. Fox News, "Democrats' new rallying cry: 'Abolish ICE'," 30 June 2018

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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Last Updated

23 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for vilify

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

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More Definitions for vilify



English Language Learners Definition of vilify

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


vil·i·fy | \ˈvi-lə-ˌfī \
vilified; vilifying

Kids Definition of vilify

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

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Comments on vilify

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


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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