Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-faym Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: To harm someone's reputation with false claims, to libel, slander.

Notes: 2023 will be remembered, especially in legal circles, as the year when defamation [def-ê-may-shên] suits against the former president led the news for months. The action noun, as you can see, is defamation, the active adjectives are defamatory and the less often heard defamous, while the passive adjectives are defamable and undefamable. The personal noun is either the straightforward English defamer or the more Latiny defamator.

In Play: This word occurs most prominently in legal parlance: "Patty Cate's suit alleges that the social media company failed to adequately supervise its services and allowed people to defame her, causing significant emotional distress." It is also useful in the political arena: "The usual intent of political ads is to defame an opponent."

Word History: Today's Good Word was snatched from French defamer when it wasn't looking. Defamer was the French remodeling of Medieval Latin defamare, from Classical Latin diffamare "to scandalize, spread widely, divulge". This word was created from dis- "apart, asunder, bad" + fama "report, rumor, talk". Fama was built from PIE bha- "to speak". It shows up in Latin fari "to speak", the present participle of which is infan(t)s "unable to speak", Sanskrit bhanati "speaks", Greek femi "fame", Armenian barr "word", Russian basnya "fable", and Serbian bajka "fairy tale", Bulgarian baya "to mumble, nag", Irish abair "to say", French bannir "to banish, exile", (probably borrowed from German bannen "to avert, exorcise"), and English ban.

Dr. Goodword,

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