Defamation may be committed in two ways viz., (i) speech, or (ii) by writing and its equivalent modes. The English common law describes the former as ‘SLANDER’ and the latter as ‘LIBEL’. The former is a spoken defamation while the latter a written defamation which may assume various forms, like physical symbols, statues, effigies, picture, caricature, wax model, etc.
To slander also various forms have been attributed. It may be committed by representations or in other manners which are treated as equivalent to speech, like shake of the head, nod, winking, hissing, and many others. Though under the common law of England distinction is made between the two in various aspects, but, in India no such distinction has been made.
The word defamation is driven from Latin word ‘Diffamare’. Semantics or Etymology of the Latin word ‘Diffamare’ provides that it means ‘Spreading evil report about someone’. Thus, defamation is nothing but causing damage to reputation of another. Thus the question of defamation is primarily linked up with one’s reputation. But the concept is nowhere defined in books of laws. Though many definitions have been attempted to circumscribe this word ‘defamation’, none has been found exhaustive.