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 The contribution of the burning of the fields to New Delhi’s annual pollution load, according to Mukherjee, is not insignificant, but also not enough to vilify the farmers. Nilanjana Bhowmick, National Geographic, "In New Delhi, burning season makes the air even more dangerous. Can anything be done?," 13 Nov. 2020 Police unions deploy ominous social media campaigns to vilify and intimidate reform-minded legislators. Sam Adler-bell, The New Republic, "How Police Unions Bully Politicians," 20 Oct. 2020 Political leaders can still choose to empower rather than silence or vilify the voices of public health agencies. Dr. Edith Bracho-sanchez, CNN, "Health information was supposed to unite us. 6 months into a pandemic, here's why it hasn't," 16 Oct. 2020 This state has benefited greatly from its immigrant communities, and Minnesotans should reject yet another attempt to vilify them. Editorial Board Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "As election nears, Trump tries to divide Minnesotans," 18 Sep. 2020 The Republicans sure love to talk about this idea, using it to vilify protestors and those who propose defunding the police. Elly Belle,, "Yes, Republicans Break Every Rule. That’s Kind Of The Point.," 28 Aug. 2020 For months, the Minnesota Multi Housing Association (MHA) has been minimizing the severity of economic impacts of COVID on renters while simultaneously elevating the most extreme anecdotes and manufacturing hypotheticals to vilify renters. Owen Duckworth, Star Tribune, "Counterpoint: There's still time to stop the eviction epidemic," 28 July 2020 Many vilify Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 4.5 million Americans, his response to nationwide protests against police brutality, and the help political allies have received from his administration. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "Riots. Radicalism. Corruption. Trump and Biden supporters turn to apocalyptic themes in campaign ad wars.," 18 June 2019 In these circumstances, Trump’s reëlection prospects hinge on his ability to rewrite history, create diversions, and vilify his political opponents and critics. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Fact-Checking Trump on Twitter Won’t Stop His Demagoguery," 27 May 2020

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

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Last Updated

29 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vilify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for vilify


How to pronounce vilify (audio)

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.

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