American Dictionary of the English Language

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LI'BEL, noun [Latin libellus, a little book, from liber, a book, from the sense of bark, and this from stripping separating. Hence liber, a book, and liber, free, are the same word.]

1. A defamatory writing, Latin libellus, famosus. Hence, the epithet being omitted, libel expresses the same thing. Any book, pamphlet, writing or picture, containing representations, maliciously made or published, tending to bring a person into contempt, or expose him to public hatred and derision. The communication of such defamatory writing to a single person, is considered in law a publication. It is immaterial with respect to the essence of a libel whether the matter of it is true or false, since the provocation and not the falsity is the thing to be punished criminally. But in a civil action, a libel must appear to be false, as well as scandalous.

In a more extensive sense, any blasphemous, treasonable or immoral writing or picture made public, is a libel and punishable by law.

2. In the civil law, and in courts of admiralty, a declaration or charge in writing exhibited in court, particularly against a ship or goods, for violating the laws of trade or of revenue.

LI'BEL, verb transitive

1. To defame or expose to public hatred and contempt by a writing or picture; to lampoon.

Some wicked wits have libeled all the fair.

2. To exhibit a charge against any thing in court, particularly against a ship or goods, for a violation of the laws of trade or revenue.

LI'BEL, verb intransitive To spread defamation, written or printed; with against. He libels against the peers of the realm. [Not now in use.]