cook the books

idiomatic phrase

: to alter official accounting records in order to deceive or mislead
Congress cooked the books with phony spending cuts and accounting gimmickry to appear to reduce the federal deficit.Colleen O'Connor

Examples of cook the books in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Government alleges that the failure to estimate project costs led Austal managers to cook the books in an effort to avoid disciplinary action from company leadership in Australia. Craig Hooper, Forbes, 2 Apr. 2023 Finally, at the core of Cuomo’s misbehavior is the arrogance of power, which was also evident in his efforts to cook the books on nursing-home deaths that resulted from his reckless COVID-19 policies. The Editors, National Review, 3 Aug. 2021 That included Robert Knight, who helped cook the books of the South Sea Company, fled England and landed in an Antwerp prison for a time. Jon Hilsenrath, WSJ, 7 May 2021 Saddled with insurmountable debt, Elder Seidel pressured Hicks to cook the books. Matt Cabral,, 3 Aug. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cook the books.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1850, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cook the books was in 1850

Dictionary Entries Near cook the books

Cite this Entry

“Cook the books.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

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