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

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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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Did You Know?

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 Pay is low, graft is rife and hospitals are often run by venal political appointees. The Economist, "Why Balkan doctors head for western Europe," 16 Dec. 2020 Harrison is thoroughly the villain of the piece, always venal and vicious, always untrustworthy and unsympathetic. Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘Tecumseh and the Prophet’ shines a light on Native American resistance," 14 Dec. 2020 The most powerful senators weren’t those who could galvanize the base with high-minded rhetoric or, alternatively, venal demagoguery. Karl W. Smith Bloomberg Opinion (tns), Star Tribune, "Biden, like Trump, is a deal maker. Good deal.," 1 Dec. 2020 Many in Peru see the legislators as venal, corrupt — and responsible for adding political turmoil to the economic and public health crises the country was already facing. Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times, "Peru Chooses 3rd President in a Week Amid Street Protests," 16 Nov. 2020 That conclusion may seem to be supported by the shocking fact that upward of seventy million people voted to reëlect the most corrupt, venal, and brazenly racist President in modern American history. Keeanga-yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker, "Voting Trump Out Is Not Enough," 9 Nov. 2020 But this time, amid a pandemic greatly exacerbated by government incompetence and venal leadership, nothing seemed funny. Washington Post, "I returned to the National Gallery seeking comfort. But art no longer feels like an escape.," 7 Oct. 2020 All such laggards were dismissed as venal, cowardly, criminally motivated, or a combination of these, including most Republicans and the few journalists who kept an open mind, especially at Fox News. Conrad Black, National Review, "Inside the Mueller Farce," 29 Sep. 2020 But at this point, the most surprising thing Donald Trump could do is not act like Donald Trump—to not be a venal cretin for the first time in his life. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Donald Trump’s Taxes Aren’t Surprising, But They’re Still a Huge Deal," 28 Sep. 2020

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.

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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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Cite this Entry

“Venal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of venal

formal : willing to do dishonest things in return for money

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