To sully is to attack someone's good name and to try to ruin his reputation. If you spread false rumors that there's chicken stock in the vegetarian entree at Joe's Diner, you would sully Joe's good reputation.

Sully can also mean to tarnish or make spotty. It's easy to remember this meaning when you know that sully comes from the Middle French word souiller, meaning, "make dirty." For example, dripping chocolate sauce onto the table will sully your mother's new white tablecloth. Another meaning of sully is to corrupt or cast suspicion on. If an automaker recalls millions of vehicles due to safety problems, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence — in fact, it may sully their brand.

Definitions of sully

v make dirty or spotty, as by exposure to air; also used metaphorically

“Her reputation was sullied after the affair with a married man”
defile, maculate, stain, tarnish
tarnish or stain
Type of:
blob, blot, fleck, spot
make a spot or mark onto

v place under suspicion or cast doubt upon

sully someone's reputation”
cloud, corrupt, defile, taint
Type of:
deflower, impair, mar, spoil, vitiate
make imperfect

v charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone

asperse, besmirch, calumniate, defame, denigrate, slander, smear, smirch
destroy or damage seriously, as of someone's reputation
print slanderous statements against
badmouth, drag through the mud, malign, traduce
speak unfavorably about
Type of:
accuse, charge
blame for, make a claim of wrongdoing or misbehavior against

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