Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Slander Definition:

Verbal or spoken defamation.

Related Terms: Defamation, Libel, Slander of Title, Absolute Privilege, Qualified Privilege, Lubricum Linquae Non Facile Trahendum Est In Poena, Defamatory Libel

In Gatley on Libel and Slander:

"Libel is committed when defamatory matter is published in permanent form or in a form which is deemed to be permanent. Defamation published by spoken word or in some other transitory form is slander."

In Pollard v Lyon, Mr. Lyon accused Ms Pollard of "being in bed with Captain Denty".

Them thar fightin' words!

The US Supreme Court defined slander as:

"... slander ... may be divided into five classes, as follows: (1.) Words falsely spoken of a person which impute to the party the commission of some criminal offence involving moral turpitude, for which the party, if the charge is true, may be indicted and punished. (2.) Words falsely spoken of a person which impute that the party is infected with some contagious disease, where, if the charge is true, it would exclude the party from society; or (3.) Defamatory words falsely spoken of a person, which impute to the party unfitness to perform the duties of an office or employment of profit, or the want of integrity in the discharge of the duties of such an office or employment. (4.) Defamatory words falsely spoken of a party which prejudice such party in his or her profession or trade. (5.) Defamatory words falsely spoken of a person, which, though not in themselves actionable, occasion the party special damage.

"Certain words, all admit, are in themselves actionable, because the natural consequence of what they impute to the party is damage, as if they import a charge that the party has been guilty of a criminal offence involving moral turpitude, or that the party is infected with a contagious distemper, or if they are prejudicial in a pecuniary sense to a person in office or to a person engaged as a livelihood in a profession or trade; but in all other cases the party who brings an action for words must show the damage he or she has suffered by the false speaking of the other party."

Historically, the common law used the word to capture both libel and slander, which lawyers today prefer to use the word defamation in that context.

The common law described what we now call slander as verbal or oral slander and libel as written or printed slander.

Often, litigation over slander simply magnifies the problem for the plaintiff. In a 1648 law book called March on Slander, the author wrote:

"Though the tongues of men be set on fire, I know no reason wherefore the law should be used as bellows to blow the coals".

French: diffamation verbale or diffamation orale.

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