Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
December 10th, 2014
Episode 41 of 825 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 10, 2014 is: calumny \KAL-um-nee\ noun 1 : a misrepresentation intended to harm another's reputation 2 : the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another's reputation Examples: The notion that the mayor knew about the problem before the newspaper broke the story is nothing but calumny. "Some say that showing respect for your opponent after heaping disrespect upon him and having disrespect heaped upon you civilizes our politics. In truth, however, it degrades our politics. It says that anything goescalumny and character assassination are all just part of the rough and tumble of campaigning." Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune, November 7, 2014 Did you know? Calumny made an appearance in these famous words from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go." The word had been in the English language for a while, though, before Hamlet uttered it. It first entered English in the 15th century and comes from the Middle French word calomnie of the same meaning. Calomnie, in turn, derives from the Latin word calumnia, (meaning "false accusation," "false claim," or "trickery"), which itself traces to the Latin verb calvi, meaning "to deceive."