Word of the Day : June 18, 2021


noun KAL-um-nee


1 : a misrepresentation intended to harm another's reputation

2 : the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another's reputation

Did You Know?

Calumny made an appearance in these famous words from William Shakespeare's Hamlet: "If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go." The word had been in the English language for a while, though, before Hamlet uttered it. It first entered English in the 15th century and comes from the Middle French word calomnie of the same meaning. Calomnie, in turn, derives from the Latin word calumnia, (meaning "false accusation," "false claim," or "trickery"), which itself traces to the Latin verb calvi, meaning "to deceive."


"[Heinrich von Kleist] sets his novella in the 14th century, when duelling was seen as a trial by battle in which the 'Judgment of God' would prevail. A murder, a wronged noblewoman, shame, calumny, castles, a melodramatic ending, Kleist's story pulls together all the key elements of the genre." — Dan Glaister, The Guardian (London), 12 May 2021

"Almost without exception I find the exchanges on this page to be polite and well-reasoned. However, recently there was a series of letters that made my blood boil. How could so many seemingly reasonable people be so wrongheaded? I am speaking, of course, of the exchange of views on Brussels sprouts. I'm sure many of you were equally taken aback. How could such a wonderful food be the object of such vile calumnies?" — Russ Parsons, The Irish Times, 6 Feb.2021

Name That Synonym

Unscramble the letters to create a synonym of calumny: DRLASNE.



More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!