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From Old French libelle, from Latin libellus (petition).

English Wikipedia has an article on:


  • enPR: līʹbəl, IPA(key): /ˈlaɪbəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪbəl


libel (countable and uncountable, plural libels)

  1. (countable) A written or pictorial false statement which unjustly seeks to damage someone's reputation.
  2. (uncountable) The act or crime of displaying such a statement publicly.
  3. (countable) Any defamatory writing; a lampoon; a satire.
  4. (law, countable) A written declaration or statement by the plaintiff of their cause of action, and of the relief they seek.
    • 1873, United States Supreme Court, The Rio Grande, 86 U.S. 178,179
      These provisions of law being in force, the steamer Rio Grande, owned, as was alleged, by persons in Mexico, being in the port of Mobile, in the Southern District of Alabama, certain materialmen, on the 26th of November, 1867, filed separate libels against her in the district court for the said district.
  5. (countable) A brief writing of any kind, especially a declaration, bill, certificate, request, supplication, etc.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Chaucer to this entry?)
    • 1382–1395, John Wycliffe et al. (translators), Matthew verse 31
      a libel of forsaking [divorcement]


Usage notes[edit]

In common usage, the noun and verb is particularly used where the defamatory writing meets the legal definition of libel in a particular jurisdiction.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


libel (third-person singular simple present libels, present participle (UK) libelling or (US) libeling, simple past and past participle (UK) libelled or (US) libeled)

  1. (transitive) To defame someone, especially in a manner that meets the legal definition of libel.
    He libelled her when he published that.
    • 1709, Alexander Pope, January and May:
      Some wicked wits have libelled all the fair.
  2. (law) To proceed against (a ship, goods, etc.) by filing a libel.



Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]




  • IPA(key): /liˈbɛl/
  • Hyphenation: li‧bel
  • Rhymes: -ɛl

Etymology 1[edit]

Borrowed from Latin libella or libellula.


libel f (plural libellen, diminutive libelletje n)

  1. dragonfly, insect of the infraorder Anisoptera
  2. dragonfly or damselfly, insect of the order Odonata

Alternative forms[edit]


Etymology 2[edit]

From Latin libellus, diminutive of liber (book).


libel n (plural libellen, diminutive libelletje n)

  1. booklet, notably a libel (defamatory writing)

Etymology 3[edit]

Borrowed from Latin libella.


libel f (plural libellen, diminutive libelletje n)

  1. A vial of a level.


  • M. J. Koenen & J. Endepols, Verklarend Handwoordenboek der Nederlandse Taal (tevens Vreemde-woordentolk), Groningen, Wolters-Noordhoff, 1969 (26th edition) [Dutch dictionary in Dutch]