Definition for LI'BEL

LI'BEL, n. [L. 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. Class Lb, No. 21, 27, 30, 31.]

  1. A defamatory writing, L. 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. – Blackstone. 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.

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