Definition of venal
- a venal arrangement with the police
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that judge is known for being venal and easily bought
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.
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."
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