This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol4 Torts, Damages, Domestic Relations", by Albert H. Putney. Also available from Amazon: Popular Law-Dictionary.
Closely allied with torts in which malice is an essential element are the wrongs of slander and libel. "The word, 'slander,' is the general and original word for all kinds of defamation, and at an early day in the history of the common law the term applied both to oral and written defamations of character. In this sense it has been defined to be the defaming of a man in his reputation by speaking or writing words from whence any injury in character or property arises, or may arise, to him of whom the words are used. But in modern usage it has been limited to defamation by words spoken, and in this sense may be defined as the speaking of base and defamatory words which tend to the prejudice of the reputation, office, trade, business, or means of getting a living of another."1
Other definitions are:
"False defamatory words * * * * if spoken." 2
"Verbal defamation of character."3
"Oral or spoken defamatory words used by one person against another."4
The following definition of libel has frequently met with judicial approval: "A libel is a malicious publication, expressed either in printing or writing, or by signs and pictures tending either to blacken the memory of one dead or the reputation of one who is living and expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule."5
1 25 Cyc, 248.
2 Odgere, L. & SI. 1.
3 Menter vs. Stewart, 2 How.
(Miss.), 698, 699. 4 Woodruff vs. Woodruff. 36 Misc. (N. Y.), 16.
Other definitions of libel are as follows:
"Any such publication as holds a person up to scorn or ridicule, or to a stronger feeling of contempt or execration, or impairs his enjoyment of general society, or imputes or implies his commission of a crime not directly charged."6
"Any publication that tends to degrade, disgrace, or injure the character of a person, or bring him into contempt, hatred or ridicule."7
"Any false and malicious publication when expressed in printing or writing, or by signs or pictures which charges an offense, punishable by indictment, or which tends to bring an individual into public hatred, contempt, or ridicule or charges an act odious and disgraceful in society."8