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
  1. verb
    make dirty or spotty, as by exposure to air; also used metaphorically
    synonyms: defile, maculate, stain, tarnish
    see moresee less
    tarnish or stain
    type of:
    blob, blot, fleck, spot
    make a spot or mark onto
  2. verb
    place under suspicion or cast doubt upon
    sully someone's reputation”
    synonyms: cloud, corrupt, defile, pollute, taint, tarnish
    see moresee less
    type of:
    deflower, impair, mar, spoil, vitiate
    make imperfect
  3. verb
    charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone
    synonyms: asperse, besmirch, calumniate, defame, denigrate, slander, smear, smirch
    see moresee less
    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
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week