Word of the Day : March 14, 2017

besmirch

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verb bih-SMERCH

Definition

: to cause harm or damage to : sully, soil

Did You Know?

Since the prefix be- in besmirch means "to make or cause to be," when you besmirch something, you cause it to have a smirch. What's a smirch? A smirch is a stain, and to smirch something is to stain it or make it dirty. By extension, the verb smirch came to mean "to bring discredit or disgrace on." Smirch and besmirch, then, mean essentially the same thing. We have William Shakespeare to thank for the variation in form. His uses of the term in Hamlet ("And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch the virtue of his will") and Henry V ("Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirch'd with rainy marching in the painful field") are the first known appearances of besmirch in English.



Examples

"Greenfield is not one of those biographers who set out to besmirch their subjects and deplore their lives, and for whom every detail is an indictment." — Luc Sante, The New York Times Book Review, 25 June 2006

"But to many of us, golf is more than a game…. We occasionally curse its name, but will defend it to the death to any that besmirch it. In short, golf is our addiction." — Joel Beall, Golf Digest, 1 July 2016



Test Your Vocabulary

Unscramble the letters to create an adjective that can mean "impure" or "besmirched": CEMUTAAL.

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