[ lahy-buhl ]
/ 藞la瑟 b蓹l /
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See synonyms for: libel / libeling on Thesaurus.com

  1. defamation by written, printed, or broadcast words or pictures: Intentionally or knowingly posting content that constitutes libel is prohibited.Compare slander (def. 3).
  2. the act or crime of publishing or broadcasting a defamatory statement:The author was convicted of libel and sentenced to a yearlong jail term.
  3. a formal written declaration or statement, as one containing the allegations of a plaintiff or the grounds of a charge.
anything that is defamatory or that maliciously or damagingly misrepresents: He blames me for his getting kicked out of school, so he spread this libel against me in revenge.
verb (used with object), li路beled, li路bel路ing or (especially British) li路belled, li路bel路ling.
to publish or broadcast a libel against: The journalist received a suspended three-year prison sentence for allegedly libeling the president in an online article.
to misrepresent damagingly: So it's just fine to smear and libel the writer, but it's not okay to call someone out for doing so?
to institute suit against by a libel, as in an admiralty court.
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Origin of libel

First recorded in 1250鈥1300; Middle English: 鈥渓ittle book, formal document, official statement,鈥 from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber book; for formation, see castellum

words often confused with libel

See slander.


in路ter路li路bel, verb (used with object), in路ter路li路beled, in路ter路li路bel路ing or (especially British) in路ter路li路belled, in路ter路li路bel路ling.un路li路beled, adjectiveun路li路belled, adjective


1. liable, libel 2. calumny, defamation, libel , slander (see confusables note at slander)3. defame, libel , slander
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 漏 Random House, Inc. 2022


What's the difference between libel and slander?

Libel and slander are both forms of defamation鈥攖he act of attacking someone鈥檚 character or reputation, especially by making false statements about them. The difference is that such statements are considered slander when they are simply spoken in the presence of other people, whereas they are considered libel when they are published or broadcast in some way, such as being written in an article, spoken on TV, or printed on a sign that鈥檚 posted in a public place.

Both words can also be used as verbs meaning to defame someone in such a way. In a legal context, libel and slander can both be considered crimes. For an action to be considered libel or slander, it must be proven to have done some damage to a person鈥檚 reputation. Slander is often much harder to prove because it involves simply saying something, whereas libel often involves a permanent record of the statement.

You can remember the difference by thinking about the first letter of each word: slander typically involves speaking, while libel typically involves a lasting document of what was said.

Here鈥檚 an example of libel and slander used correctly in a sentence.

Example: The court determined that the defendant鈥檚 statements constituted slander, but did not rise to the level of libel since they were not published or broadcast.聽

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between libel and slander.

Quiz yourself on libel vs. slander!

Should libel or slander be used in the following sentence?

The magazine was sued for _____ after printing false accusations.

How to use libel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for libel

/ (藞la瑟bl) /

  1. the publication of defamatory matter in permanent form, as by a written or printed statement, picture, etc
  2. the act of publishing such matter
any defamatory or unflattering representation or statement
ecclesiastical law a claimant's written statement of claim
Scots law the formal statement of a charge
verb -bels, -belling or -belled or US -bels, -beling or -beled (tr)

Derived forms of libel

libeller or libelist, nounlibellous or libelous, adjective

Word Origin for libel

C13 (in the sense: written statement), hence C14 legal sense: a plaintiff's statement, via Old French from Latin libellus a little book, from liber a book
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition 漏 William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 漏 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for libel


A written, printed, or pictorial statement that unjustly defames someone publicly. Prosecution of libel as a punishable offense puts some measure of restriction on freedom of the press under the First Amendment (see also First Amendment).

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright 漏 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.