cal·​um·​ny ˈka-ləm-nē How to pronounce calumny (audio)
 also  ˈkal-yəm-
plural calumnies
: a misrepresentation intended to harm another's reputation
denounced his opponent for his defamatory insinuations and calumny
: the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another's reputation
He was the target of calumny for his unpopular beliefs.
calumnious adjective
calumniously adverb

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."

Example Sentences

They uttered calumnies against him. He was the target of calumny for his unpopular beliefs.
Recent Examples on the Web Claiming otherwise is a despicable calumny. James Freeman, WSJ, 25 May 2021 From the calumny and chaos of John Tyler's presidency to Andrew Johnson's drunken swearing-in, the conduct of several Presidents have been less-than stellar. Sydney Walton, CNN, 16 Jan. 2021 And the reality is that the same individuals who who hurl calumny upon Aslan likely have little concern with the possible bias of Robert Spencer, who in some circles is an expert on Islam and a professing Christian. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 30 July 2013 The truth exploded a few years into the pontificate of Francis, who, disastrously, chose to believe his bishops over the abused, even accusing victims of calumny. New York Times, 28 May 2022 Miller has waved off that claim as calumny, even though Richardson served as Miller’s faithful No. 2 for more than a decade at Xavier and Arizona. Michael Powell, New York Times, 17 Mar. 2020 Rumors circulated that during a prerelease screening in California, the couple declared the film a calumny. John Kelly, Washington Post, 7 Dec. 2019 Contrary to the calumnies offered by both progressives and populists, Trump isn’t just a blunter version of previous Republican presidents and conservative leaders. John Hood, National Review, 28 Aug. 2019 But the government contends that the bill is needed to patch gaps in existing legislation, allowing faster action to stop the spread of calumny through social media as well as in print. The Economist, 5 Apr. 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'calumny.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English calumnye, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French calomnie, from Latin calumnia, from calvi to deceive; perhaps akin to Old English hōlian to slander, Greek kēlein to beguile

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of calumny was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near calumny

Cite this Entry

“Calumny.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2023.

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