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Innuendo means an indirect hint. It is derived from the Latin word “innuere,” which means “to nod forward.” Innuendo is used in lawsuits for defamation (libel and slander). It shows that the plaintiff had bad statements made about them and that the statements were in fact defamatory. In other words, innuendo is the plaintiff’s explanation of a statement’s defamatory meaning when that meaning is not apparent from the statement’s face, but which would be understood by those reading/hearing it based on special knowledge.  

For example, if A is the only living ex-mayor, the statement "the former mayor is a crook," by innuendo targets A. 

As explained in this case from South Carolina, in the context of a statement being defamatory by way of innuendo, “innuendo is extrinsic evidence used to prove a statement's defamatory nature that includes the aid of inducements, colloquialisms, and explanatory circumstances.”

Similarly, this case from Colorado, explains that “the purpose of innuendo in a pleading is to explain the defendant's meaning in language employed and also to show how it relates to the plaintiff when that is not clear on its face.”

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]