1 : to utter slanderous and abusive statements against : defame
2 : to lower in estimation or importance
Did You Know?
Vilify came to English by way of the Middle English vilifien and the Late Latin vilificare, from the Latin adjective vilis, meaning “cheap” or “vile.” It first appeared in English in the 15th century. Also debuting during that time was another verb that derives from vilis and has a similar meaning: vilipend. When they were first used in English, both vilify and vilipend meant to regard someone or something as being of little worth or importance. Vilipend now carries an additional meaning of “to express a low opinion of somebody,” while vilify means, more specifically, to express such an opinion publicly in a way that intends to embarrass a person or ruin his or her reputation.
“The gentleman next door had been vilified by Nicholas; rudely stigmatised as a dotard
and an idiot; and for these attacks upon his understanding, Mrs. Nickleby was, in some sort, accountable.” — Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, 1839
“In a written statement, Oakland-based lawyer Elliot Silver said Peterson’s attorneys are trying to ‘vilify’ Richelle Nice in the media as a ‘rogue juror out on a mission’ in their bid to get Peterson’s 2005 murder conviction overturned.” — Angela Ruggiero, The San Jose Mercury News, 26 Oct. 2020