Student Dictionary

2 entries found for libel.
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Main Entry: 1li·bel
Pronunciation: primarystresslimacr-bschwal
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English libel "a written statement, little book" from early French libel (same meaning), from Latin libellus, "little book," from liber "book" --related to LIBRARY
1 : something spoken, written, or drawn that injures a person's good name
2 : the act or crime of publishing a libel
Word History The Latin word for book was liber. This was the same word used for the inner bark of a tree on which the early books were written. When the suffix -ellus was added to the root of the word, libellus, meaning "a little book," was created. In English the word became libel, and at first it had the meaning "little book," just as the Latin word had. But little books and pamphlets became a popular way to spread gossip and interesting but untrue stories about famous people. The writers and publishers of such books were often sued for their libels. Before long the spreading of untrue stories that damage a person's reputation came to be called libel.

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