per·​ju·​ry ˈpər-jə-rē How to pronounce perjury (audio)
: 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 Gascón charged Price in June 2023 with 10 counts of embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest. Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times, 15 Feb. 2024 Becker was indicted six months later and pleaded not guilty to the charges — a misdemeanor and a felony perjury. Grace Hase, The Mercury News, 12 Feb. 2024 Mosby was convicted of two counts of perjury last year in connection with the $40,000 and $50,000 withdrawals from her City of Baltimore retirement funds. Michelle Singletary, Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2024 Jurors on Wednesday found Mosby guilty of one of two counts of mortgage fraud, three months after another jury convicted her of perjury. Cassidy Jensen, Baltimore Sun, 7 Feb. 2024 Former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg is in plea talks with the Manhattan district attorney's office to resolve a potential perjury charge, sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 1 Feb. 2024 Everyone in perjury that was out, none of them seemed shocked., 10 Nov. 2023 The judge has been indicted on 16 counts of the use of office for personal gain or for the gain of family members, perjury and making a false representation to Examiners of Public Accounts, the Alabama attorney general announced Jan. 29. Olivia Lloyd, Miami Herald, 29 Jan. 2024 The Met Police had already been looking into potential offenses of perjury and perverting the course of justice related to prosecutions and investigations carried out by the Post Office. TIME, 6 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'perjury.' 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

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near perjury

Cite this Entry

“Perjury.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


per·​ju·​ry ˈpərj-(ə-)rē How to pronounce perjury (audio)
plural perjuries
: the act or crime of swearing to what one knows is untrue

Legal Definition


per·​ju·​ry ˈpər-jə-rē How to pronounce perjury (audio)
plural perjuries
: 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

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

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