Printable Version
Pronunciation: vil-ê-fai Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To defame or malign, to slander; to speak contemptuously of someone.

Notes: Nothing drives me farther up the wall than the common slang verb "bad-mouth". People who use it generally lack today's Good Word in their vocabulary. Let's make sure vilify has a prominent place in ours. The noun from this verb is vilification. A person who vilifies is a vilifier.

In Play: Notice that this word is even shorter than "bad-mouth," making it a stronger candidate for expressing that sentiment, "Why are you vilifying me? I told you that the dog took the keys and locked himself in the car." Slander implies false vilification, but today's word takes no stand as to whether the claim is true or false: "I see nothing wrong in vilifying that vile Martha Sviniard: her gossip has destroyed far too many good reputations."

Word History: This is a verb derived from Late Latin vilificare "to hold cheap", a verb based on vilis "cheap, common, worthless" + ficare "to make". The same adjective, vilis, went into the making of English vile and revile via various circuitous historical routes. The root of this word, vil-, goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root wes- "to buy". The final S dropped out before the suffix -l and also the suffix -n, which produced Latin venum "sale", the word at the bottom of English venal and vendor. With the suffix -r, the same root came to be Persian bazaar "market", something we now enjoy as much as the Iranians.

Dr. Goodword,

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