per·​ju·​ry | \ ˈpər-jə-rē, ˈpərj-rē\

Definition of perjury

: the voluntary violation of an oath or vow either by swearing to what is untrue or by omission to do what has been promised under oath : false swearing

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Did You Know?

The prefix per- in Latin often meant "harmfully". So witnesses who perjure themselves do harm to the truth by knowingly telling a lie. Not all lying is perjury, only lying under oath; so perjury generally takes place either in court or before a legislative body such as Congress. To avoid committing perjury, a witness or defendant may "take the Fifth": that is, refuse to answer a question because the answer might be an admission of guilt, and the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution forbids forcing a citizen to admit to being guilty of a crime.

Examples of perjury in a Sentence

He was found guilty of perjury.

Recent Examples on the Web

Dowless, who served prison time in 1995 for felony fraud and was convicted of felony perjury in 1992, has worked on get-out-the-vote efforts for various local and legislative candidates through the years. Gary D. Robertson, The Seattle Times, "Ballot fraud investigation muddies North Carolina election," 4 Dec. 2018 USA Today reports that Dolezal/Diallo is charged with first-degree theft by welfare fraud, making false verification and second-degree perjury. Angela Helm, The Root, "Rachel Dolezal Booked and Released From Jail on Welfare Fraud Charges," 4 July 2018 Libby was convicted in 2007 for obstruction and perjury over his role in the Plame investigation. Alana Abramson, Fortune, "Who Is Scooter Libby? 4 Things to Know About Dick Cheney's Former Advisor Who Just Got Pardoned By Trump," 13 Apr. 2018 In addition to Mauer's perjury case, another District 128 employee faces the same charges. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Libertyville, Vernon Hills high school board member resigns amid perjury charges," 23 Mar. 2018 But while in office as the 42nd president, Clinton faced impeachment proceedings in 1998, after the Lewinsky scandal, for charges of perjury and obstruction. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "8 Men Whose Sexual Misconduct Allegations Prove It's Long Been a Big Part of U.S. Politics," 12 Oct. 2018 Libby is a former Bush administration official who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in March 2007 in the case of Valerie Plame, who was outed as a covert CIA agent. George Petras, USA TODAY, "President Trump’s pardons and commutations," 10 July 2018 Clinton’s denial eventually led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice; the Senate ultimately acquitted him. Washington Post, "Trump could face questioning by next year in defamation suit," 5 June 2018 The investigation led to Scooter Libby's conviction in 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice. Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, "Comey's legal team includes former US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald," 25 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'perjury.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of perjury

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for perjury

Last Updated

4 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for perjury

The first known use of perjury was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of perjury

law : the crime of telling a lie in a court of law after promising to tell the truth


per·​ju·​ry | \ ˈpər-jə-rē \
plural perjuries

Legal Definition of perjury

: the act or crime of knowingly making a false statement (as about a material matter) while under oath or bound by an affirmation or other officially prescribed declaration that what one says, writes, or claims is true — compare false swearing

History and Etymology for perjury

Anglo-French perjurie parjurie, from Latin perjurium, from perjurus deliberately giving false testimony, from per- detrimental to + jur- jus law

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Comments on perjury

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a complex dispute or argument

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