sub·​orn | \ sə-ˈbȯrn How to pronounce suborn (audio) \
suborned; suborning; suborns

Definition of suborn

transitive verb

1 : to induce secretly to do an unlawful thing
2 : to induce to commit perjury also : to obtain (perjured testimony) from a witness

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from suborn

subornation \ ˌsə-​ˌbȯr-​ˈnā-​shən How to pronounce subornation (audio) \ noun
suborner noun

Did You Know?

The Latin word that gave us suborn in the early part of the 16th century is subornare, which translates literally as "to secretly furnish or equip." The sub- that brings the "secretly" meaning to subornare more commonly means "under" or "below," but it has its stealthy denotation in the etymologies of several other English words, including surreptitious (from sub- and rapere, meaning "to seize") and the verb suspect (from sub- or sus- and specere, meaning "to look at"). The ornare of subornare is also at work in the words ornate, adorn, and ornament.

Examples of suborn in a Sentence

He's accused of suborning a witness.
Recent Examples on the Web Brindley also made national legal headlines for beating his own indictment for suborning perjury in 2015. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Pain clinic owner's trial derails after defense attorney withdraws on the first day," 19 Feb. 2020 Combined with countries that have only limited enforcement, 51.9% of global exports come from countries that allow their companies to suborn foreign officials. Tom Saler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tom Saler: Illicit payments are common in some corners of international business," 14 Feb. 2020 And, moreover, there was now evidence of a pressure campaign that looked a lot like an attempt to suborn perjury. David French, National Review, "The New York Times Still Doesn’t Understand What It Did," 17 Sep. 2019 Russia and separatist Ukraine are not the Soviet Union, but justice is still suborned to theatre, and facts to interests. The Economist, "A bold Ukrainian film-maker charts the line between fiction and truth," 25 July 2019 That made Facebook allegedly complicit in suborning the democratic process in both countries, which surely warrants a stringent regulatory response. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: In Facebook settlement, the FTC lets the company and Zuckerberg off the hook," 24 July 2019 Another possibility, though, is that Rosenstein knows Trump is in fact being investigated for one or more of the categories of behavior that Barr admits would be obstruction — such as suborning false testimony or withholding evidence. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "Trump’s attorney general nominee wrote a memo expressing deep suspicion of the Mueller probe," 20 Dec. 2018 But the actions those presidents were accused of — like witness tampering or suborning perjury — were not an exercise of their official powers as president. Charlie Savage, New York Times, "Trump and His Lawyers Embrace a Vision of Vast Executive Power," 4 June 2018 Imagine a president willing and able to suborn criminality on his behalf. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Is Probing the Constitution for Weaknesses, and Finding Them," 1 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of suborn

1534, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for suborn

Middle French suborner, from Latin subornare, from sub- secretly + ornare to furnish, equip — more at ornate

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about suborn

Time Traveler for suborn

Time Traveler

The first known use of suborn was in 1534

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about suborn

Statistics for suborn

Cite this Entry

“Suborn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for suborn


How to pronounce suborn (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of suborn

: to persuade (someone) to do something illegal (such as to lie in a court of law)
: to get (false testimony) from a witness
sub·​orn | \ sə-ˈbȯrn How to pronounce suborn (audio) \

Legal Definition of suborn

1 : to induce or procure to commit an unlawful act and especially perjury an attempt to suborn a witness
2 : to induce (perjury) or obtain (perjured testimony) from a witness an attorney and his client were jointly charged with suborning perjury and perjury, respectively— W. R. LaFave and J. H. Israel

Other Words from suborn

suborner noun

History and Etymology for suborn

Latin subornare, from sub- secretly + ornare to prepare, equip

More from Merriam-Webster on suborn

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with suborn

Comments on suborn

What made you want to look up suborn? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!