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From Middle French scandale (indignation caused by misconduct or defamatory speech), from Ecclesiastical Latin scandalum (that on which one trips, cause of offense, literally stumbling block), from Ancient Greek σκάνδαλον (skándalon, a trap laid for an enemy, a cause of moral stumbling), from Proto-Indo-European *skand- (to jump). Cognate with Latin scandō (to climb). First attested from Old Northern French escandle, but the modern word is a reborrowing. Sense evolution from "cause of stumbling, that which causes one to sin, stumbling block" to "discredit to reputation, that which brings shame, thing of disgrace" is possibly due to early influence from other similar sounding words for infamy and disgrace (compare Old English scand (ignominity, scandal, disgraceful thing), Old High German scanda (ignominy, disgrace), Gothic 𐍃𐌺𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌰 (skanda, shame, disgrace)). See shand, shend.



scandal (countable and uncountable, plural scandals)

  1. An incident or event that disgraces or damages the reputation of the persons or organization involved.
    Their affair was reported as a scandal by most tabloids.
    • (Can we date this quote?) William Shakespeare
      O, what a scandal is it to our crown,
      That two such noble peers as ye should jar!
    • 1933 November, G[ilbert] K[eith] Chesteron, “The Scandal of Father Brown”, in The Scandal of Father Brown, London; Toronto, Ont.: Cassell and Company, published 1935, OCLC 5896846, page 1:
      It would not be fair to record the adventures of Father Brown, without admitting that he was once involved in a grave scandal.
    • 1990, House of Cards, Season 1, Episode 1:
      Well, yes, a couple of leaks are all very well, but it takes more than that... A big scandal perhaps. A political scandal. Or a scandal about something people really understand: Sex... or money.
    • 2006, Edwin Black, chapter 1, in Internal Combustion[1]:
      But electric vehicles and the batteries that made them run became ensnared in corporate scandals, fraud, and monopolistic corruption that shook the confidence of the nation and inspired automotive upstarts.
  2. Damage to one's reputation.
    The incident brought considerable scandal to his family.
    • 1892, Walter Besant, “Prologue: Who is Edmund Gray?”, in The Ivory Gate: A Novel, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, [], OCLC 16832619:
      Such a scandal as the prosecution of a brother for forgery—with a verdict of guilty—is a most truly horrible, deplorable, fatal thing. It takes the respectability out of a family perhaps at a critical moment, when the family is just assuming the robes of respectability: [].
  3. Widespread moral outrage, indignation, as over an offence to decency.
    When their behaviour was made public it caused a great scandal.
  4. (theology) Religious discredit; an act or behaviour which brings a religion into discredit.
  5. (theology) Something which hinders acceptance of religious ideas or behaviour; a stumbling-block or offense.
  6. Defamatory talk; gossip, slander.
    According to village scandal, they weren't even married.
    • 1855, Anthony Trollope, The Warden, chapter 1
      Scandal at Barchester affirmed that had it not been for the beauty of his daughter, Mr. Harding would have remained a minor canon; but here probably Scandal lied, as she so often does; for even as a minor canon no one had been more popular among his reverend brethren in the close, than Mr. Harding; and Scandal, before she had reprobated Mr. Harding for being made precentor by his friend the bishop, had loudly blamed the bishop for having so long omitted to do something for his friend Mr. Harding.

Derived termsEdit



scandal (third-person singular simple present scandals, present participle scandalling or scandaling, simple past and past participle scandalled or scandaled)

  1. (obsolete) To treat opprobriously; to defame; to slander.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Shakespeare
      I do fawn on men and hug them hard / And after scandal them.
  2. (obsolete) To scandalize; to offend.
    • 1855, Robert Potts, Liber Cantabrigiensis
      A propensity to scandal may partly proceed from an inability to distinguish the proper objects of censure

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for scandal in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)