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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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 Every earnest complaint about unfairness in college admissions implies that the venal colleges are also sacred bodies from which issue these holy gifts, and true and righteous judgments of who is worthy to receive them. Matt Feeney, The New Yorker, 29 May 2021 Those regulations might have come in handy, say, 20 years later when Reagan's deregulation mania led to the venal banking practices that both created the housing bubble and burst it, landing the world in the global financial crisis of 2008. Virginia Heffernan Los Angeles Times, Star Tribune, 23 Apr. 2021 In his view, an old, exhausted, and increasingly venal Palestinian leadership had succumbed to American and Israeli blandishments and pressure. Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker, 19 Apr. 2021 Its politicians have raced to outdo one another in venal, attention-grabbing rhetoric. Thomas Rogers, The New York Review of Books, 31 Mar. 2021 But by the late aughts, O’Hare started to get noticed on screen, primarily for playing either venal influence-pushers or doctors delivering unwelcome news. Nate Jones, Vulture, 21 Nov. 2020 The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been widely viewed as colorful, generally harmless, perhaps venal and not necessarily journalistically productive. New York Times, 23 Feb. 2021 Pay is low, graft is rife and hospitals are often run by venal political appointees. The Economist, 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, 14 Dec. 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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Last Updated

18 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Venal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for venal



English Language Learners Definition of venal

formal : willing to do dishonest things in return for money

More from Merriam-Webster on venal

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Nglish: Translation of venal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of venal for Arabic Speakers


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