Definition of libel in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlībəl/


1 Law A published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation. Compare with slander.
Example sentences
  • The extent of publication is also very relevant: a libel published to millions has a greater potential to cause damage than a libel published to a handful of people.
  • Despite the recommendations of the Faulks Committee, the law of defamation still distinguishes between libel and slander.
  • A statement that a police officer is under is investigation is no doubt defamatory, but the sting in the libel is not as sharp as the statement that he has by his conduct brought suspicion on himself.
defamation, defamation of character, character assassination, calumny, misrepresentation, scandalmongering;
aspersions, denigration, vilification, disparagement, derogation, insult, slander, malicious gossip;
lie, slur, smear, untruth, false report
informal mudslinging, bad-mouthing
1.1The action or crime of publishing a false statement about a person: a councilor who sued two national newspapers for libel [as modifier]: a libel action
More example sentences
  • During the 1790s Pitt frequently resorted to seditious libel as a blunt instrument against the reform movement.
  • A third common law offence which may involve strict liability is that of blasphemous libel.
  • Ironically, the action is over a short story concerning a previous libel action.
1.2A false and malicious statement about a person.
Example sentences
  • You have therefore published outrageous libels against our client directly to persons whose opinion of our client is critical to their professional reputation and standing.
1.3A thing or circumstance that brings undeserved discredit on a person by misrepresentation.
Example sentences
  • Maybe we could better ourselves by reaching out to others - and help kill a poisonous libel at the same time.
  • Before classicism can again occupy a central place in our lives, a monstrous libel must first be undone.
2(In admiralty and ecclesiastical law) a plaintiff’s written declaration.
Example sentences
  • The libel laws as they stand militate against doing this, because once a libel writ is issued by a complainant any apology is an admission of liability.

verb (libels, libeling, libeled ; British libels, libelling, libelled)

[with object]
1 Law Defame (someone) by publishing a libel: she alleged the magazine had libeled her
More example sentences
  • A judge at Cork Circuit Cork yesterday ruled that he was libelled by only two newspapers, and awarded him damages of £5,600.
  • Browne has viciously slandered and libeled me, in the public media, repeatedly.
  • Gilligan's lawyer wrote to the film production company, seeking to ensure that he was not libelled.
defame, malign, slander, blacken someone's name, sully someone's reputation, speak ill/evil of, traduce, smear, cast aspersions on, drag someone's name through the mud, besmirch, tarnish, taint, tell lies about, stain, impugn someone's character/integrity, vilify, denigrate, disparage, run down, stigmatize, discredit, slur
informal dis, bad-mouth
formal derogate, calumniate
1.1Make a false and malicious statement about.
Example sentences
  • Good point, but a blog item that libels someone will remain on the record, likely archived for a good long time, and a libelous statement left online for even a day puts a blogger at tremendous risk.
  • One cannot say what one likes about people or institutions because one cannot libel anyone.
2(In admiralty and ecclesiastical law) bring a suit against (someone).



Pronunciation: /ˈlībələr/
Example sentences
  • He made a motion concerning libellers on 19 Feb 1585, and was put in charge of the ensuing committee.
  • There are also found such libellers who dare to call the Church in Russia things too terrible to repeat.
  • Most were libellers and some became editors.


Middle English (in the general sense 'a document, a written statement'): via Old French from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber 'book'.

  • When first used a libel was ‘a document, a written statement’: it came via Old French from Latin libellus, a diminutive of liber ‘book’, source of library (Late Middle English). Now used as a legal term referring to a published false statement damaging to someone's reputation, it dates from the early 17th century. Libel contrasts with slander ( see scandal) which is spoken.

Words that rhyme with libel

Bible, intertribal, scribal, tribal

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: li·bel

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