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In law, defamation (also called vilification, slander, and libel) is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressively stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. Slander refers to a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.


  • 'Tis slander,
    Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
    Outvenoms all the worms of Nile.
  • King: So haply slander-
    Whose whisper o'er the world's diameter,
    As level as the cannon to his blank,
    Transports his poisoned shot- may miss our name
    And hit the woundless air.- O, come away!
    My soul is full of discord and dismay.
  • Every libel, which is called famosus libellus, is made either against a private man, or against a public person. If it be against a private man, it deserves a severe punishment.
  • Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.
    • Translated: "Hurl your calumnies boldly; something is sure to stick".
    • Francis Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623).
  • I hate the man who builds his name
    On ruins of another's fame.
    Thus prudes, by characters o'erthrown,
    Imagine that they raise their own.
    Thus Scribblers, covetous of praise,
    Think slander can transplant the bays.
    • John Gay, Fables (1727), Fable XLV, "The Poet and the Rose"
  • When squint-eyed Slander plies the unhallow'd tongue,
    From poison'd maw when Treason weaves his line,
    And Muse apostate (infamy to song!)
    Grovels, low muttering, at Sedition's shrine.
  • Alexander von Humboldt (seeing a newspaper containing slanderous falsehoods against Jefferson on the President's desk) : Why do you not have the fellow hung who dares to write these abominable lies?
    Thomas Jefferson : What! hang the guardians of the public morals? No, sir, — rather would I protect the spirit of freedom which dictates even that degree of abuse. Put that paper into your pocket, my good friend, carry it with you to Europe, and when you hear any one doubt the reality of American freedom, show them that paper, and tell them where you found it.
    Humboldt : But is it not shocking that virtuous characters should be defamed?
    Jefferson : Let their actions refute such libels. Believe me, virtue is not long darkened by the clouds of calumny; and the temporary pain which it causes is infinitely overweighed by the safety it insures against degeneracy in the principles and conduct of public functionaries. When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.
    • Conversation reported in B.L. Rayner, Life of Jefferson (1834), p. 356. The exact date is not known, but the conversation took place in one of several meetings with the President during Humboldt's visit to Washington, D.C., from June 1 to June 27, 1804.
  • The breath
    Of accusation kills an innocent name,
    And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life,
    Which is a mask without it.
  • 'T was Slander filled her mouth with lying words,
    Slander, the foulest whelp of Sin.
  • Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
    • Abraham Lincoln, reportedly when requested to dismiss Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General, in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.
  • This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will.

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