de·​fame | \ di-ˈfām How to pronounce defame (audio) , dē- \
defamed; defaming

Definition of defame

transitive verb

1 law : to harm the reputation of by communicating false statements about : to harm the reputation of by libel (see libel entry 1 sense 2a) or slander (see slander entry 2 sense 2) defamed her character
2 archaic : accuse defamed of witchcraft
3 archaic : disgrace

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from defame

defamer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for defame

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

Examples of defame in a Sentence

He says he was defamed by reports that falsely identified him as a former gangster. of course I want to win the election, but I refuse to defame my opponent in order to do so
Recent Examples on the Web Hargrove contends the letter threatened him with a criminal investigation, and claims Elliott and Hemmerling used their authority as public officials to defame him and prevent him from earning a living as an investigative journalist. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Oct. 2021 The lawyers allegedly told the father that his daughter was attempting to defame Lazzaro on social media and threatened legal action. Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2021 Cuomo, who denied the accusations, repeatedly suggested the investigation was politically motivated and designed to defame him. Laura L. Davis, USA TODAY, 23 Aug. 2021 The suit claims Elliott and Hemmerling used their authority as public officials to defame Hargrove and prevent him from earning a living as an investigative journalist. Jeff Mcdonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Aug. 2021 Groups of young men in threes and fours walked up and down Eighth Avenue aimlessly, less looking for the train, or a car home, than hanging around and waiting for a fresh chance to defame the slight point guard from Atlanta. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 2 June 2021 Snyder previously had accused the wife of former general manager Scot McLoughan, Jessica, of leaking unflattering reports about him to the media in an attempt to defame him. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, 15 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile, there are few gossip rags claiming their First Amendment rights to defame prominent people anymore. Jo Livingstone, The New Republic, 23 Mar. 2021 Names have been removed from the stories, so as not to defame anyone, but each entry is tagged with the author's school. Hilary Whiteman, CNN, 6 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defame.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of defame

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for defame

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French deffamer, diffamer, from Medieval Latin defamare, alteration of Latin diffamare, from dis- + fama reputation, fame

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About defame

Time Traveler for defame

Time Traveler

The first known use of defame was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near defame




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for defame

Last Updated

9 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Defame.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for defame



English Language Learners Definition of defame

: to hurt the reputation of (someone or something) especially by saying things that are false or unfair


transitive verb
de·​fame | \ di-ˈfām How to pronounce defame (audio) \
defamed; defaming

Legal Definition of defame

: to make the subject of defamation

Other Words from defame

defamer noun

History and Etymology for defame

Medieval Latin defamare, alteration of Latin diffamare to spread news of, defame, from dis-, prefix marking dispersal or removal + fama reputation

More from Merriam-Webster on defame

Nglish: Translation of defame for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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