In law, defamation (also called calumny, 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.
- Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.
- Hurl your calumnies boldly; something is sure to stick.
- Francis Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623).
- 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.
- James Beattie, The Judgment of Paris (1765), stanza 109.
- Calomniez, calomniez; il en reste toujours quelque chose.
- Calumniate, calumniate; there will always be something which sticks.
- Pierre de Beaumarchais, Barbier de Seville (1773), Act III. 13.
- Slander is a poison which extinguishes charity, both in the slanderer and in the persons who listen to it.
- St. Bernard, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 214.
- 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.
- Edward Coke, 77 Eng. Rep. 250 (1605).
- Calumny can injure you only if you reflect yourself in others and not in your conscience.
- Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani, 2013, p. 7.
- 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".
- Dens Theonina.
- Like Theon (i.e. a calumniating disposition).
- Horace, Epistles (c. 20 BC and 14 BC), Book I. 18. 82.
- Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
- 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.
- For oh, 'twas nuts to the Father of Lies,
(As this wily fiend is named in the Bible)
To find it settled by Laws so wise
That the greater the truth, the worse the libel.
- Thomas Moore, A Case of Libel, Odes on Cash, Corn, etc; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922).
- 'T was Slander filled her mouth with lying words,
Slander, the foulest whelp of Sin.
- A generous heart repairs a slanderous tongue.
- Do not repeat slander; you should not hear it, for it is the result of hot temper.
- For slander lives upon succession,
Forever housed where it gets possession.
- 'Tis slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
All corners of the world; kings, queens and states,
Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters.
- Virtue itself 'scapes not calumnious strokes.
- Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny.
- 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.
- No might nor greatness in mortality
Can censure 'scape; back-wounding calumny
The whitest virtue strikes. What king so strong,
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?
- One doth not know
How much an ill word may empoison liking.
- Slander'd to death by villains,
That dare as well answer a man indeed
As I dare take a serpent by the tongue:
Boys, apes, braggarts, Jacks, milksops!
- Done to death by slanderous tongues,
Was the Hero that here lies.
- I will be hang'd, if some eternal villain,
Some busy and insinuating rogue,
Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office,
Have not devis'd this slander.
- I am disgrac'd, impeach'd and baffled here,—
Pierc'd to the soul with slander's venom'd spear.
- That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
* * * *
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater.
- William Shakespeare, Sonnet LXX.
- If I can do it
By aught that I can speak in his dispraise,
She shall not long continue love to him.
- With ridiculous and awkward action,
Which, slanderer, he imitation calls.
- Calumny will sear
Virtue itself;—these shrugs, these hums, and ha's.
- The breath
Of accusation kills an innocent name,
And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life,
Which is a mask without it.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Cenci (1819).
- Silence to man and prayer to God are the best cures for the evil of slander.
- Charles Spurgeon in Treasury of David on Psalm 120:1.
- 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.
- An injurious lie is an uncommendable thing; and so, also, and in the same degree, is an injurious truth—a fact that is recognized by the law of libel.
- Mark Twain, On the Decay of the Art of Lying.
- 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.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 714-15.
- There are * * * robberies that leave man or woman forever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer.
- George Eliot, Felix Holt. Introduction.
- A generous heart repairs a slanderous tongue.
- Homer, The Odyssey, Book VIII, line 43. Pope's translation.
- If slander be a snake, it is a winged one—it flies as well as creeps.
- Douglas Jerrold, Specimens of Jerrold's Wit, Slander.
- Where it concerns himself,
Who's angry at a slander, makes it true.
- Ben Jonson, Catiline, Act III, scene 1.
Men's throats with whisperings.
- Ben Jonson, Sejanus, Act I, scene 1.
- For enemies carry about slander not in the form in which it took its rise. * * * The scandal of men is everlasting; even then does it survive when you would suppose it to be dead.
- Plautus, Persa, Act III, scene 1. Riley's translation.
- Homines qui gestant, quique auscultant crimina,
Si meo arbitratu liceat, omnes pendeant,
Gestores linguis, auditores auribus.
- Your tittle-tattlers, and those who listen to slander, by my good will should all be hanged—the former by their tongues, the latter by the ears.
- Plautus, Pseudolus, I. 5. 12.
- Soft-buzzing Slander; silly moths that eat
An honest name.
- James Thomson, Liberty, Part IV, line 609.
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 89.
- Nihil est autem tam volucre, quam maledictum; nihil facilius emittitur; nihil citius excipitur, latius dissipatur.
- Nothing is so swift as calumny; nothing is more easily uttered; nothing more readily received; nothing more widely dispersed.
- Cicero, Oratio Pro Cnœo Plancio, XXIII.
- Calumny is only the noise of madmen.
- A nickname a man may chance to wear out; but a system of calumny, pursued by a faction, may descend even to posterity. This principle has taken full effect on this state favorite.
- Isaac D'Israeli, Amenities of Literature, The First Jesuits in England.
- There are calumnies against which even innocence loses courage.
The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)
- Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 159.
- Everything printed or written, which reflects on the character of another, and is published without lawful justification or excuse, is a libel, whatever the intention may have been.
- Parke, B., O'Brien v. Clement (1846), 15 M. & W. 437.
- It is not the truth or falsehood that makes a libel, but the temper with which it is published.
- Best, J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 49.
- It was the rule of Holt, Chief Justice, to make words actionable whenever they sound to the disreputation of the person of whom they were spoken; and this was also Hale's and Twieden's rule; and I think it a very good rule.
- Fortescue, J., Button v. Heyward (1722), 8 Mod. 24. This is in reference perhaps to Baker v. Pearce, 6 Mod. 23.
- Libelling against a private man is a moral offence; but when it is against a government, it tends to the destruction of it.
- Holt, C.J., Rex v. Beare (1698), 1 Raym. 418. For the antiquity of this notion, see Vinnius, 741, by the law of the twelve tables.
- Why are libels against individuals prosecuted? Because they have a tendency to provoke the party to whom they are sent to a breach of the peace.
- Best, J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 117.
- His reputation is his property, and, if possible, more valuable than other property.
- Malins, V.-C., Dixon v. Holden (1869), L. R. 7 Eq. 492.
- A good name is better than precious ointment.
- Ecclesiastes vii., 1.
- He that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
- William Shakespeare, "Othello" (Iago), Act III., Scene 3.