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 The beauty and power of Snyder’s cinematic vision are what matters most, but Rolling Stone’s allegation of showbiz treachery demonstrates how venal media operatives (always corporate allies) can be. Armond White, National Review, 29 July 2022 With the connivance of venal theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), Eve maneuvers to displace aging star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) from a lead role and become a star herself. Globe Staff,, 21 July 2022 Of all the film’s street slime, the corporation is surely Robocop‘s most venal, despicable monster. Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 July 2022 Its provocations were no longer transgressive but silly, elitist and even venal, having been co-opted by corporate sponsors and the growing art market. New York Times, 20 May 2022 The literalness of the exercise emphasizes the slipperiness of time, shining a garish spotlight on mortality and lending a tragic depth to the most venal of reunion specials. New York Times, 22 Dec. 2021 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 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

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Venal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 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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