Anyone who suffers loss or harm as a consequence of a civil wrong, other than for breach of contract, is said to have a potential right of action under the law of tort. Defamation is a tort. Other examples of claims in tort include actions for negligence or nuisance or civil assault.
Defamation is the right of action in respect of damage to reputation. It is a collective term encompassing claims for damages in respect of written words or images, once referred to as libel and claims based on spoken words or gestures formerly referred to as slander.