\ ˈbərk How to pronounce burke (audio) \
burked; burking

Definition of burke

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to suppress quietly or indirectly burke an inquiry
2 : bypass, avoid burke an issue


biographical name
\ ˈbərk How to pronounce Burke (audio) \

Definition of Burke (Entry 2 of 2)

Edmund 1729–1797 British statesman and orator

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Other Words from burke

Biographical name

Burkean or Burkian \ ˈbər-​kē-​ən How to pronounce Burke (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for burke

Synonyms: Verb

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When an elderly pensioner died at the Edinburgh boarding house of William Hare in 1827, the proprietor and his friend William Burke decided to sell the body to a local anatomy school. The sale was so lucrative that they decided to make sure they could repeat it. They began luring nameless wanderers (who were not likely to be missed) into the house, getting them drunk, then smothering or strangling them and selling the bodies. The two disposed of at least 15 victims before murdering a local woman whose disappearance led to their arrest. At Burke's execution (by hanging), irate crowds shouted "Burke him!" As a result of the case, the word burke became a byword first for death by suffocation or strangulation and eventually for any cover-up.

Examples of burke in a Sentence

Verb the executives knew that the drug had dangerous side effects, but they burked the findings

First Known Use of burke


1835, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for burke


from burke to suffocate, from William Burke †1829 Irish criminal executed for smothering victims to sell their bodies for dissection

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Cite this Entry

“Burke.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burke. Accessed 25 Jun. 2021.

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