Brennan: Concerns of Russian Efforts to 'suborn'

Lookups spiked more than 28,000% after former CIA chief John O. Brennan testimony

Suborn (“to induce secretly to do an unlawful thing”) worked its way to the top of our lookups on May 23rd, 2017, after the word was used by the former director of the C.I.A., in testimony given at a congressional hearing.

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” Mr. Brennan told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee. “It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”
—Emmarie Huetteman and Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, 23 May 2017

Suborn, which comes from the Latin subornare (“to secretly furnish or equip”) has been in use since the early 16th century. It shares an origin with several common English words, such as adorn and ornament, as well as several not-so-common ones, such as ornify (“to adorn”) and exornation (“embellishment”).

Suborn may be found in use as far back as 1524, when it appeared in a letter written by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard.

….and wher the Lord Dacres, found culpable, may be punyshed according to his demerites, than in those parties, wher the said complayntes may peradventure be suborned, and not so good commodite geven for comdigne punycion, as the cace shal require.

The noun form of suborn is subornation.

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