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 venality (audio) \ noun
venally \ ˈvē-​nᵊl-​ē How to pronounce venally (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 The blistering nonfiction account, written by a morally dubious figure with months of White House access, portrayed President Trump as a venal lout with a toddler's grasp of the world. Jacob Lambert, TheWeek, "John Bolton and our collective yearning for justice," 19 June 2020 Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, rocked domestic and international politics by writing a book that portrays the president as ignorant, venal, and indifferent to any U.S. interests beyond the 2020 reelection campaign. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "'Traitor': Mike Pompeo accuses John Bolton of lying and hurting US with memoir," 18 June 2020 Like all of us, museums are stitched tight into the fabric of a messy, venal, Darwinian world. Holland Cotter, New York Times, "America’s Big Museums on the Hot Seat," 18 Mar. 2020 Unbeknownst to them all, the Trenchards' venal staff plot with enemies to undo the family in exchange for some coin. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Belgravia': TV Review," 10 Apr. 2020 True to his mentor Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rivera’s play is simultaneously lyrical and venal, and populated with real angels and devils. cleveland, "‘Marisol’ at Cleveland Public Theatre is a poetic visit to a parallel universe," 11 Mar. 2020 Although his anticorruption platform has been popular with Peruvians, and Congress is widely reviled as venal, Mr. Vizcarra lacks an electoral mandate and a strong party. Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times, "Who’s in Charge in Peru? Peruvians Can’t Agree," 1 Oct. 2019 He was praised as a can-do, pro-business pragmatist who would wipe clean and shape up a government widely seen as venal and rotten. The Economist, "IndiaIndia is stumbling because of its prime minister’s failure to curb his darker side," 24 Oct. 2019 On Twitter, the repository of all that is supportive and venal about our national cultural discourse, the love poured in along with a few haters and skeptics. Michael Phillips,, "For University of Chicago’s Jacqueline Stewart, Turner Classic Movies is a teaching moment," 26 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for venal

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The first known use of venal was in 1652

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Last Updated

29 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Venal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for venal


How to pronounce venal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of venal

formal : willing to do dishonest things in return for money

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Spanish Central: Translation of venal

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Britannica English: Translation of venal for Arabic Speakers

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