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.]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.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, v.t.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, v.i. To spread defamation, written or printed; with against. He libels against the peers of the realm. [Not now in use.]