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I've often heard people say something like, "Someone was talking during davening today" while being careful to avoid naming the person. From here I might guess that it is not considered lashon hara if the person is not named. Is this correct?

If so, how far does this extend? May one say something bad about "a member of the Goldstein family" (where there are only a few possible people)? What about saying, "Either Reuven or Shimon did [bad thing]"?

Suppose there are three relevant people. Can someone say that two of them committed a sin, so each person now has a 2/3 chance of being guilty (although no one is definitively faulted)? If so, what about discussing the sins of "everyone in shul except one person"?

In short, may one say something negative about an unnamed person? If so, where is the line drawn?

Please provide sources.

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    One reason this is a bad idea is because speculation is likely to run wild (at least in people's minds), and innocent people may be unfairly suspected. So it becomes אבק מוציא שם רע about many people. – Fred Jul 17 '15 at 22:03
  • I asked this question to the author of the Nisevos Chayim commentary to Sefer Chafetz Chaim. He told me that was allowed, and provided a proof from the Chafetz Chaim (implicit, not explicit) but most unfortuantely I do not remember it anymore – הנער הזה Oct 16 '15 at 6:55
  • By naming a distinct group (a family or a subset of discrete individuals) you have essentially cast all of them under a pall - they are all now suspect. I could see how mentioning the minyan rather than an explicit marker is distinctly different - there is no official "census" as to who was there, and there may be multiple minyanim you are referring to, so there is no one to "pin the blame on," so to speak. – Isaac Kotlicky Dec 16 '15 at 3:32
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It is forbidden to say Lashon Hara even if one doesn’t mention the name of one’s fellow but it’s clear from the discussion who that fellow is

Chafetz Chaim (Lashon Hara 3:4)

See other paragraphs in Chapter 3, as they are related and expound on this concept. But this rule, seems, general enough.

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    And what about if it isn't obvious? (As in the first case.) – Scimonster Mar 19 '15 at 21:45
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    It's not allowed to say Loshon Hora about a group. If it reflects badly on the family, saying LHR against one of them may also be a problem. – Avrohom Yitzchok Mar 19 '15 at 21:59
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    I don't see how this answers the question. – Ypnypn Mar 19 '15 at 22:18

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