'Calumny': J.K. Rowling quotes Washington

'An untrue statement that is made to damage someone's reputation'


Calumny ("an untrue statement that is made to damage someone's reputation") was among our top lookups on July 3rd, 2017, after a tweet by J. K. Rowling used the word in an apparent rejoinder to President Trump.

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Calumny came into English in the 15th century, from the Middle French word calomnie (which has the same meaning). The word has many slight variants—the adjective calumnious, the adverb calumniously, the verb calumniate, the noun calumniator—none of which has ever been used to mean "here is something that I like about you."

As Pride and Hatred are united to form that vast Pleasure, which Superstition aims at, and the Delight we find in Impiety; so also they combine to make the Pleasure of Malignity, Slander and Calumny.
—Jacques Abbadie, The Art of Knowing One-self, 1695

Calumny was more frequently used in the past, and has seen a decline in usage since Washington's lifetime. Its Latin roots connect it with many terms used in legal language, including the near-synonym slander.



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