ve·​nal | \ ˈvē-nᵊl How to pronounce venal (audio) \

Definition of venal

1 : capable of being bought or obtained for money or other valuable consideration : purchasable especially : open to corrupt influence and especially bribery : mercenary a venal legislator
2 : originating in, characterized by, or associated with corrupt bribery a venal arrangement with the police

Other Words from venal

venality \ vi-​ˈna-​lə-​tē How to pronounce venal (audio) \ noun
venally \ ˈvē-​nᵊl-​ē How to pronounce venal (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for venal



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If you are given the choice between acts that are venal and those that are venial, go for the venial. Although the two words look and sound alike, they have very different meanings and histories. Venal demonstrates the adage that anything can be had if the price is high enough and the morals are low enough. That word originated with the Latin venum, which simply referred to something that was sold or for sale. Some of those transactions must have been rather shady because by the mid-1600s, venal had gained the sense of corruption it carries today. Venial sins, on the other hand, are pardonable, the kind that show that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. That forgiving term descends from venia, Latin for "favor," "indulgence," or "pardon."

Examples of venal in a Sentence

that judge is known for being venal and easily bought
Recent Examples on the Web That the venal and violent years of Bongbong's parents reign were anything but halcyon times filled with prosperity and law and order is simply shouted down as false. David A. Andelman, CNN, 6 May 2022 Companies that, for decades, accommodated his venal impulses can now clearly see that those efforts have backfired. Alexandra Wrage, Forbes, 5 May 2022 Top Stories Not so long ago, Montana rapscallion Stu Long’s pursuit of venal success would have been sold as a redemption story. Armond White, National Review, 20 Apr. 2022 It’s the thumb in the eye arm, and Buddhists is doing all sorts of venal stuff in his last year. Leila Atassi, cleveland, 19 Apr. 2022 And glorious language, artfully structured, can overpower what’s limited and banal, even venal. New York Times, 7 Apr. 2022 At the root of it, what went wrong in 2002 centered on a scoring system that had been widely decried for years as being, at best, problematically subjective and, at worst, incestuously venal. Lanford Beard,, 17 Feb. 2022 That’s how the sophomoric Coen wit made The Ladykillers a more brilliant comedy on race traditions vs. venal liberalism than Get Out. Armond White, National Review, 25 Mar. 2022 Campion’s shrewdest stunt was to validate the young, murderous, fascist gay character (Kodi Smit-McPhee) — making a venal parable about generational politics. Armond White, National Review, 9 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of venal

1652, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for venal

borrowed from Latin vēnālis "that may be bought, for sale," from *vēnus "sale" (attested only in accusative vēnum and dative vēnō, vēnuī; akin to Greek ônos "price," Sanskrit vasna- "price, value") + -ālis -al entry 1

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vena contracta



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Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Venal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on venal

Nglish: Translation of venal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of venal for Arabic Speakers


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