Ask Difference

Calumny vs. Slander — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 17, 2024
Calumny is the act of making false and defamatory statements about someone with the intent to harm their reputation, while slander specifically refers to the spoken form of such defamation.
Calumny vs. Slander — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Calumny and Slander


Key Differences

Calumny involves the deliberate act of spreading false information or accusations to damage someone's reputation. It is a broad term that encompasses any form of defamation, including both spoken and written statements. Slander, however, is a subset of defamation that specifically pertains to false and damaging statements made orally. The key difference lies in the medium of the defamation—slander is always spoken, while calumny can take various forms.
Both calumny and slander are harmful to individuals' reputations, often leading to social, professional, or even legal repercussions for the victim. The intent behind calumny and slander is crucial; it involves the malicious intent to harm someone's reputation rather than accidentally spreading false information. In legal contexts, proving slander typically requires evidence that the accused knowingly made a false spoken statement with the intent to cause harm.
While calumny is a broader term, slander has specific legal implications, particularly in jurisdictions where defamation laws differentiate between spoken (slander) and written (libel) defamation. Understanding this distinction is essential, especially in legal disputes, where the nature of the defamatory act can influence the case's outcome.
Despite their differences, both terms emphasize the importance of truthfulness and the potential harm caused by spreading false information. Whether it's calumny or slander, the impact on the victim's reputation and well-being can be significant, highlighting the need for responsible communication and respect for others' reputations.

Comparison Chart


Making false statements to harm someone's reputation
The act of making false spoken statements to defame someone


Can be spoken, written, or in any other form
Specifically spoken


Involves malicious intent to harm reputation
Requires intent to defame through spoken words

Legal Context

Broad term for defamation, including libel and slander
Treated specifically as spoken defamation in law


Can lead to social, professional, or legal repercussions
Legal consequences focus on the harm from spoken words

Compare with Definitions


Malicious intent to harm someone's public image.
The article was a clear case of calumny, filled with unfounded accusations.


Oral defamation with malicious intent.
Slanderous comments at the meeting led to his resignation.


Broad term encompassing various forms of defamation.
The law protects individuals from calumny and its damaging effects.


Requires proving the spoken word was intentionally harmful.
The case hinged on whether the defendant's words constituted slander.


The act of falsely accusing someone to damage their reputation.
The politician's career was almost ruined by calumny.


False spoken statements damaging to someone's reputation.
The false rumors spread about her were pure slander.


Can result in serious consequences for the victim.
Victims of calumny often face unjust public scrutiny.


Legally, refers to spoken defamation distinct from libel.
He sued his former colleague for slander over the false allegations.


Deliberate spreading of false information.
Calumny in the workplace can create a toxic environment.


Often involves public oral communication.
Public figures are frequently targets of slander.


A false statement maliciously made to injure another's reputation.


The action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation
He is suing the TV company for slander


The utterance of maliciously false statements; slander.


Make false and damaging statements about (someone)
They were accused of slandering the head of state


(countable) A false accusation or charge brought to tarnish another's reputation or standing.


(Law) Oral communication of false and malicious statements that damage the reputation of another.


(uncountable) Falsifications or misrepresentations intended to disparage or discredit another.
Accusations of abuse were pure extortive calumny in a malicious bid to make money.


A false and malicious statement or report about someone.


To make false accusations or levy false charges against a person with the intent to tarnish that person's reputation or standing; to calumniate.


To utter a slander about.


False accusation of a crime or offense, maliciously made or reported, to the injury of another; malicious misrepresentation; slander; detraction.
Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny.


To utter or spread slander.


A malicious attack


A false or unsupported, malicious statement (spoken, not written), especially one which is injurious to a person's reputation; the making of such a statement.


An abusive attack on a person's character or good name


(Internet) A collection of humorous videos intended to poke fun at a certain group of people, such as a community or nation


To utter a slanderous statement about; baselessly speak ill of.


(Internet) To poke fun at a certain group of people


A false tale or report maliciously uttered, tending to injure the reputation of another; the malicious utterance of defamatory reports; the dissemination of malicious tales or suggestions to the injury of another.
Whether we speak evil of a man to his face or behind his back; the former way, indeed, seems to be the most generous, but yet is a great fault, and that which we call "reviling;" the latter is more mean and base, and that which we properly call "slander", or "Backbiting."
[We] make the careful magistrateThe mark of slander.


Disgrace; reproach; dishonor; opprobrium.
Thou slander of thy mother's heavy womb.


Formerly, defamation generally, whether oral or written; in modern usage, defamation by words spoken; utterance of false, malicious, and defamatory words, tending to the damage and derogation of another; calumny. See the Note under Defamation.


To defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report; to tarnish or impair the reputation of by false tales maliciously told or propagated; to calumniate.
O, do not slander him, for he is kind.


To bring discredit or shame upon by one's acts.
Tax not so bad a voiceTo slander music any more than once.


Words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another


An abusive attack on a person's character or good name


Charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone;
The journalists have defamed me!
The article in the paper sullied my reputation

Common Curiosities

What constitutes calumny?

Calumny involves making false and defamatory statements about someone with the intent to damage their reputation, regardless of the medium.

What needs to be proven in a slander case?

In a slander case, it must be proven that the defendant knowingly made false spoken statements intended to defame the plaintiff.

Can calumny be unintentional?

Calumny typically involves a deliberate intent to harm someone's reputation, making unintentional acts less likely to be considered calumny.

Is it difficult to prove calumny or slander in court?

Yes, defamation cases, including calumny and slander, can be challenging to prove, especially the requirement to show intent and actual harm.

How can one protect themselves from slander or calumny?

Legal recourse is available for victims, but preventive measures include promoting a positive reputation and addressing false statements quickly.

Can truth be a defense against accusations of slander?

Yes, if the defendant can prove that their statements were true, it is a complete defense against defamation charges.

How is slander different from general defamation?

Slander is a specific type of defamation that is only communicated through spoken words, unlike libel, which is written.

Are there legal protections against calumny and slander?

Yes, many jurisdictions have laws to protect individuals against defamation, including both calumny and slander, with varying requirements for proof and damages.

Can online comments be considered slander?

Online comments are usually treated as libel since they are written, but if they are spoken in a video or audio, they could be considered slander.

Does freedom of speech protect slanderous statements?

Freedom of speech has limits, and does not protect defamatory statements made with malicious intent to harm someone's reputation.

Can public figures sue for slander or calumny?

Public figures can sue for defamation, but they often have to meet a higher standard by proving "actual malice" in the false statements made against them.

Are apologies sufficient to mitigate slander or calumny?

While apologies can help mitigate the damage, they may not absolve the perpetrator from legal consequences in defamation cases.

How does social media impact cases of slander?

Social media can amplify the effects of slander, spreading false spoken statements quickly to a wide audience, which can complicate legal cases.

What are the consequences of being found guilty of slander?

Legal consequences can include monetary damages to compensate the victim, and in some cases, punitive damages for particularly malicious acts.

How does the intent behind slanderous or calumnious statements impact a case?

Intent plays a crucial role; demonstrating malicious intent to harm the victim's reputation can significantly impact the outcome of a defamation case.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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