tr.v. ma·ligned, ma·lign·ing, ma·ligns
To make evil, harmful, and often untrue statements about (someone).
1. Evil or harmful in nature or effect: "He felt that the malign influence of the house had governed his own disintegration" (Thomas Wolfe).
2. Intending or threatening harm or ill will; malevolent: "a snarling, bickering husky ... heavy-chested, with a malign eye" (Jack London).
[Middle English malignen, to attack, from Old French malignier, from Late Latin malignārī, from Latin malignus, malign; see genə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots. Adj., from Middle English, from Old French, from Latin malignus.]
Synonyms: malign, defame, traduce, vilify, 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?" (William Makepeace Thackeray).
Defame suggests damage to reputation through misrepresentation: The plaintiff had been defamed and had legitimate grounds for a lawsuit.
Traduce connotes the humiliation or disgrace resulting from such damage: "My character was traduced by Captain Hawkins ... even the ship's company cried out shame" (Frederick Marryat).
Vilify pertains to open, deliberate, vicious defamation: "As long as there have been personal fouls and holding penalties, sports fans have vilified referees for making bad calls" (Jason Zinoman).
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.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus