sub·​orn | \sə-ˈbȯrn \
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

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Other Words from suborn

subornation \ ˌsə-​ˌbȯr-​ˈnā-​shən \ 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

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 Greitens’ attorneys pushed back on the offer on the grounds that Gardner was allegedly involved in suborning Tisaby’s perjury. Bryan Lowry, kansascity, "St. Louis police will investigate ex-FBI agent involved in Greitens case | The Kansas City Star," 15 May 2018 One Chinese state bank should not be allowed to do global business while another suborns North Korea. Daniel Blumenthal And, WSJ, "Forcing China’s Hand on North Korea," 17 July 2017 The desire to suborn Americans has not abated with the end of the Cold War., "Jared Kushner and Donald Trump: Like Father, Like Son-in-Law," 26 May 2017 The desire to suborn Americans has not abated with the end of the Cold War. Chris Smith, The Hive, "Jared Kushner and Donald Trump: Like Father, Like Son-in-Law," 26 May 2017 Now the party elite will literally be suborned at an event conjoining his public duties and the fattening of his own wallet. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Donald Trump Is a Crook," 21 June 2017

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.

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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

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Last Updated

19 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for suborn

The first known use of suborn was in 1534

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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 \

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

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