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Denigrate vs. Disparage — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Updated on April 26, 2024
"Denigrate" means to unfairly criticize and diminish someone's reputation, often using misleading information, while "disparage" involves belittling or expressing a low opinion of someone or something.
Denigrate vs. Disparage — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Denigrate and Disparage


Key Differences

"Denigrate" typically implies a more malicious intent to tarnish someone's reputation or image, often by spreading falsehoods or misleading information. Whereas "disparage" refers to speaking about someone or something in a way that shows strong disapproval or lack of respect, but not necessarily with false claims.
The act of denigrating often has a more deliberate aim to undermine someone’s standing or character, using derogatory or slanderous comments. On the other hand, disparaging may occur as casual remarks that belittle or undervalue someone without the explicit intention to harm their reputation.
In a legal context, denigration can border on libel or slander if the negative statements are proven false and damaging. Conversely, disparaging someone might not necessarily involve false statements but can still be hurtful or damaging through negative comparisons or criticisms.
Public figures are frequently targets of denigration in political campaigns or tabloid journalism, where the goal is to seriously weaken public perception of the individual. Disparaging comments, however, might appear in less formal settings like social media, where people express disdain or contempt openly.
When choosing between "denigrate" and "disparage," consider whether the criticism includes false or misleading elements aimed at ruining someone's reputation (denigrate) or if it’s more about expressing disapproval or belittling someone (disparage).

Comparison Chart


To unfairly criticize by spreading false information
To belittle or express low opinion openly


Malicious, aiming to harm reputation
Usually not driven by malice, more casual or thoughtless

Legal implications

Can lead to libel or slander if false
Less likely to be legally actionable unless derogatory

Common contexts

Political smearing, tabloids
Social media, informal discussions

Focus of criticism

Reputation, character
Value, quality, or importance

Compare with Definitions


To criticize unfairly by distorting the truth.
He was often denigrated by fabricated stories that undermined his achievements.


To belittle or write off as unimportant.
She disparaged her rival's plans as trivial and unworthy of consideration.


To attack the character or reputation of someone falsely.
The politician tried to denigrate his opponent by spreading rumors about his past.


To undervalue someone’s contributions.
The manager disparaged her team's hard work, which demoralized everyone involved.


To belittle someone through lies or exaggeration.
The company's success was denigrated by competitors who falsely claimed they cheated.


To speak of someone or something with disrespect.
He disparaged the new project, calling it a waste of resources.


To slander or defame someone.
She sued the newspaper for denigrating her in an article that falsely accused her of crimes.


To express a negative opinion that lowers esteem.
Critics disparaged the film, calling it unoriginal and poorly executed.


To disparage with the intent of ruining.
Activists denigrated the CEO’s reputation through a series of misleading social media posts.


To ridicule or mock in a hurtful way.
He often disparaged his employees’ suggestions, leading to a lack of trust in his leadership.


To attack the character or reputation of; speak ill of; defame
"Speakers before the United States Chamber of Commerce rarely denigrate the businessman as an economic force" (John Kenneth Galbraith).


To speak of in a slighting or disrespectful way.


To disparage; belittle
The movie critics denigrated the director's latest film.


To reduce in esteem or rank.


(transitive) To criticise so as to besmirch; traduce, disparage or defame.


(obsolete) Inequality in marriage; marriage with an inferior.


(transitive) To treat as worthless; belittle, degrade or disparage.
You have no right to denigrate people and things that you have no personal experience with.


(obsolete) To match unequally; to degrade or dishonor.


(rare) To blacken.


To dishonor by a comparison with what is inferior; to lower in rank or estimation by actions or words; to speak slightingly of; to depreciate; to undervalue.


To blacken thoroughly; to make very black.


To ridicule, mock, discredit.


Fig.: To blacken or sully; to defame.
To denigrate the memory of Voltaire.


To match unequally; to degrade or dishonor by an unequal marriage.
Alas! that any of my nationShould ever so foul disparaged be.


Don't belittle his influence


To dishonor by a comparison with what is inferior; to lower in rank or estimation by actions or words; to speak slightingly of; to depreciate; to undervalue.
Those forbidding appearances which sometimes disparage the actions of men sincerely pious.
Thou durst not thus disparage glorious arms.


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


Inequality in marriage; marriage with an inferior.
Dissuaded her from such a disparage.


Express a negative opinion of;
She disparaged her student's efforts

Common Curiosities

What does 'denigrate' mean?

It means to unfairly criticize someone by using misleading or false information, often to damage their reputation.

Can 'denigrate' and 'disparage' be used interchangeably?

They can be used in similar contexts but are not exactly interchangeable due to the difference in intent and the presence of falsehoods in denigration.

How do 'denigrate' and 'disparage' differ in intent?

"Denigrate" often has a malicious intent to harm reputation, while "disparage" might not necessarily be malicious, more so thoughtless or disrespectful.

What is an example of denigrating someone?

Spreading false rumors that someone engaged in illegal activities to ruin their reputation.

What does 'disparage' mean?

It refers to speaking about someone or something in a derogatory way, showing a lack of respect or a low opinion.

What should one do if they are disparaged?

Addressing the issue directly with the person or seeking support from others to rectify the situation can be effective.

What is an example of disparaging someone?

Calling someone’s ideas foolish or useless in a meeting to undermine their confidence.

Why is it important to avoid disparaging comments?

Disparaging comments can hurt relationships, lower morale, and diminish the respect others have for you.

Is it worse to denigrate or disparage someone?

Denigrating is generally considered worse because it involves deliberate falsehoods intended to harm someone’s reputation.

How can denigration affect a person?

It can lead to serious reputational damage, emotional distress, and even legal consequences.

What should one do if they are denigrated?

They might consider legal action if the denigration includes false claims that damage their reputation or seek other ways to restore their standing.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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