Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Innuendo Definition:

In defamation, the inferential, inherent or secondary meaning of words.

Words not necessarily defamatory on their face in their natural and ordinary meaning but defamatory because of a secondary meaning which would be understood by persons privy to the words or taken in light of the extraneous circumstances.

The unspoken or unwritten but apparent, insinuated meaning of words.

In the 10th edition of Gatley on Libel and Slander, the authors write, at page 971, that innuendo is:

"... a meaning arising from facts extrinsic to the words, whether solely or in addition to the natural and ordinary meaning ... which he contends would lead a reasonable person to infer that the words were understood in that meaning."

In the 2009 Canadian Encyclopedic Digest, the authors write:

"An innuendo is where the extended defamatory meaning of the words arises from inference or implication. An innuendo may be based on a meaning that is inherent in the words themselves, or on some extrinsic facts that make otherwise innocent words defamatory. These two distinct situations are frequently referred to as false innuendo and true innuendo."

In Bird, Justice O'Neill of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice adopted these words:

"Where the words complained of are in their natural and ordinary meaning capable of being held to be defamatory, no innuendo is necessary; and what the ordinary man will infer from those words is to be regarded as part of their natural and ordinary meaning and does not require the addition of an innuendo. Where the words are not defamatory in their plain and ordinary meaning, but only by virtue of facts or circumstances attending the publication, the plaintiff must set out in his or her statement of claim the specific defamatory meaning which they conveyed to the persons to whom they were published. This meaning is known as the innuendo."

In Grubb, Justice Davies used the example of writing that someone was a Casanova. Casanova is not a word in the English language and therefore not libellous per se, but it would be understood by an ordinary person to refer to a "fornicator and adulterer, etc."

French: insinuation.


Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!