per·​ju·​ry | \ ˈpər-jə-rē How to pronounce perjury (audio) , 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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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 Baird, who was considered Synder's right-hand man as a senior adviser, has been charged with four separate felony counts — one of perjury, one of misconduct in office, one of obstruction of justice and one of extortion. Arpan Lobo, Detroit Free Press, 4 May 2022 Yet the perjury charges against him were dropped and Bonds' conviction for obstruction of justice was overturned on appeal. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 26 Jan. 2022 The judge ruled last week that two perjury counts Maxwell faces for allegedly lying in a deposition taken in a civil lawsuit brought by alleged victims will be tried separately. Kara Scannell, CNN, 23 Apr. 2021 Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed Thursday for reelection at the city elections office, ahead of her hearing in federal court related to charges of perjury and making false statements. Emily Opilo, Baltimore Sun, 15 Apr. 2022 In 2019, Tisaby was indicted on six counts of perjury and one count of evidence tampering. Jim Salter, ajc, 11 Apr. 2022 In 2019, Tisaby was indicted on six counts of perjury and one count of evidence tampering. CBS News, 11 Apr. 2022 In 2019, Tisaby was indicted on six counts of perjury and one count of evidence tampering. Jim Salter,, 11 Apr. 2022 The indictment charges Mosby with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements on loan applications on a pair of vacation properties in Florida: an eight-bedroom home near Disney World, and a condo on the state’s Gulf Coast. Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of perjury

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

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Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Perjury.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for perjury


per·​ju·​ry | \ ˈpər-jə-rē How to pronounce perjury (audio) \
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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