ma·lign (m-ln) KEY
ma·ligned, ma·lign·ing, ma·ligns
Middle English malignen, to attack, from Old French malignier, from Late Latin malignr, from Latin malignus, malign; see gen- in Indo-European roots. Adj., from Middle English from Old French, from Latin malignus
malign, defame, traduce, vilify, asperse, slander, calumniate, libel
These verbs mean to make evil, harmful, often untrue statements about another. Malign stresses malicious intent: "Have I not taken your part when you were maligned?" (Thackeray). Defame suggests damage to reputation through misrepresentation: The plaintiff had been defamed and had legitimate grounds for a lawsuit. Traduce connotes the resulting humiliation or disgrace: "My character was traduced by Captain Hawkins . . . even the ship's company cried out shame" (Frederick Marryat). Vilify pertains to open, deliberate, vicious defamation: "One who belongs to the most vilified and persecuted minority in history is not likely to be insensible to the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution" (Felix Frankfurter). To asperse is to spread unfavorable charges or insinuations against: "Who could be so base as to asperse the character of a family so harmless as ours?" (Oliver Goldsmith). Slander and calumniate apply to oral expression: He slandered his political opponent. She calumniated and ridiculed her former employer. Libel involves the communication of written or pictorial material: The celebrity sued the tabloid that libeled her. See also Synonyms at sinister.