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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, quia semper aliquid adhæret.
    Hurl your calumnies boldly, for something is sure to stick.
    • Johannes Jacobus Manlius, Locorum Communium Collectanea (1562), paraphrasing Plutarch's characterisation of Medios of Larissa.
    • Francis Bacon later notes that this is a common saying in De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623):
      Sicut enim dici solet de calumnia, (For as it is usually said of slander,) Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid hæret.
  • Such a businessman has never become rich whose mouth was full of slander and his heart full of envy of success of the others, who could with great skill reveal the mistakes of his competitor. However that one has never been and will never be poor who serves his customers with words of cordial kindness and whose eyes can see rather the positive than the negative features of the competitor so that he could use them.
    • Tomas Bata (1928), translated and cited in: Tribus, Myron. "Lessons from Tomas Bata for the Modern Day Manager." Tvůrčí odkaz Tomáše Bati a současné podnikatelské metody (2001).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • DEFAME, v.t. To lie about another. To tell the truth about another.
  • Abandoning false speech, the ascetic Gotama dwells refraining from false speech, a truth-speaker, one to be relied on, trustworthy, dependable, not a deceiver of the world. Abandoning malicious speech, he does not repeat there what he has heard here to the detriment of these, or repeat here what he has heard there to the detriment of those. Thus he is a reconciler of those at variance and an encourager of those at one, rejoicing in peace, loving it, delighting in it, one who speaks up for peace. Abandoning harsh speech, he refrains from it. He speaks whatever is blameless, pleasing to the ear, agreeable, reaching the heart, urbane, pleasing and attractive to the multitude. Abandoning idle chatter, he speaks at the right time, what is correct and to the point, of Dhamma and discipline. He is a speaker whose words are to be treasured, seasonable, reasoned, well-defined and connected with the goal.
  • "Or he might say: 'Having abandoned slander, the recluse Gotama abstains from slander. He does not repeat elsewhere what he has heard here in order to divide others from the people here, nor does he repeat here what he has heard elsewhere in order to divide these from the people there. Thus he is a reconciler of those who are divided and a promoter of friendships. Rejoicing, delighting, and exulting in concord, he speaks only words that are conducive to concord.'
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Peter Parker: Spider-Man wasn't terrorizing the city, he was trying to save it! It's slander!
J. Jonah Jameson: It is not. I resent that. Slander is spoken. In print, it's libel.
  • Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
    • Abraham Lincoln, rejecting complaint about Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General, in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919); John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works (1907), phrase in letter to Edwin Stanton, July 14, 1864; John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890).
  • 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).
  • '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.
  • 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?
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • The breath
    Of accusation kills an innocent name,
    And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life,
    Which is a mask without it.
  • Silence to man and prayer to God are the best cures for the evil of slander.
  • The eyes of the slanderer always move around as shiftily as a spindle. You should never remain in his presence; his intentions should not be allowed to have an effect on you.
  • 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.
  • For 32 years (1884-1916) the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was Charles Taze Russell. He was a fearless preacher and a prolific writer. He boldly denounced and refuted the Trinity doctrine, the immortal soul and eternal hellfire teachings. At one time Russell’s sermons were being featured every week in some 3,000 newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe. Consequently he was under constant attack, mainly by the clergy. Many of his enemies stooped to personal attacks in an attempt to discredit him. How did he view these slanderers? He once said: “If you stop to kick at every dog that barks at you, you’ll never get very far.”
    • Awake! (1984), 8th of December p.9.
  • 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.
  • Woe unto every slandering traducer.
    • Quran (104:1).

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.
  • 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.
  • Where it concerns himself,
    Who's angry at a slander, makes it true.
  • Cut
    Men's throats with whisperings.
  • 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.
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.
  • There are calumnies against which even innocence loses courage.
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.

See also

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