What does the idiom "cast aspersions" mean?

Are you using the idiom cast aspersions but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the cast aspersions idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "cast aspersions"


When someone "casts aspersions," they make an unfavorable or damaging remark about someone or something, typically in an attempt to damage the other person's reputation. The remark may be unsubstantiated, and is often based on speculation.


The phrase "cast aspersions" originated in the 16th century around the same time as the Latin phrase "aspersus asperse" which translates to "sprinkled with slander". The use of "cast" in this context implies that the negative remarks were like stones thrown at someone, with the intention to damage their reputation.


This phrase is typically used in a formal setting, such as in a court of law, or in a newspaper article. The phrase is most often used as part of a sentence such as, "He was accused of casting aspersions on his opponent's character." It can also be used to describe an action taken by an individual with the intent to damage someone's reputation, such as, "She was accused of casting aspersions on her former boss."

Example Sentences

  • The politician was accused of casting aspersions on his opponent's character by suggesting that he was unethical.
  • The witness was accused of casting aspersions on the defendant by alleging that he was guilty.
  • The newspaper article was accused of casting aspersions on the celebrity's behavior.

The meanings of the words in the "cast aspersions" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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