Defamation “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “defamation” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and “Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:”




Libel or slander. The publication of anything which is injurious to the good name or reputation of another person, or which tends to bring him into disrepute [Hollenbeck v. Hall, 193 Iowa 214, 72 NW 518]. Words which produce any perceptible injury to the reputation of another; a false publication likely to bring another in disrepute [Mosnat v. Snyder, 105 Iowa 500, 504, 75 NW 356].


  1. Tort: The speaking of slanderous words of a person so as, de bona fama aliquid detrahere, to hurt his good fame [vide Slander].
  2. In the United States, the remedy for defamation is by an action on the case, where the words are slanderous.
  3. In England, besides the remedy by action, proceedings may be instituted in the ecclesiastical court for redress of the injury. The punishment for defamation, in this court, is payment of costs and penance enjoined at the discretion of the judge. When the slander has been privately uttered, the penance may be ordered to be performed in a private place; when publicly uttered, the sentence must be public, as in the church of the parish of the defamed party, in time of divine service, and the defamer may be required publicly to pronounce that by such words, naming them, as set forth in the sentence, he had defamed the plaintiff, and therefore, that the begs pardon, first, of God, and then of the party defamed, for uttering such words [Clerk’s Assist. 225; 3 Burn’s Eccl. Law, Defamation, pl. 14; 2 Chit. Pr. 471 Cooke on Def].



The taking from one’s reputation. The offense of injuring a person’s character, fame, or reputation by false and malicious statements. The term seems to be comprehensive of both libel and slander [Printing Co. v. Moulden, 15 Tex. Civ. App. 574, 41 S. W. 381; Moore v. Francis, 121 N. Y. 199, 23 N. E. 1127, 8 L. R. A. 214, 18 Am. St. Rep. 810; Hollenbeck v. Hall, 103 Iowa 214, 72 N. W. 518, 39 L. R. A. 734, 64 Am. St. Rep. 175; Mosnat v. Snyder, 105 Iowa 500, 75 N. W. 356].


The uttering of slanderous words with a view to injure another’s reputation; the malicious uttering of falsehood respecting another which tends to destroy or impair his good name, character or occupation; slander; calumny. To constitute defamation in law, the words must be false and spoken maliciously. Defamatory words written and published are called a libel.

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One Response to Defamation “Legally” Defined

  1. Pingback: Chilling Dissent: How Government Demonizes Americans | From the Trenches World Report

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