General English

  • noun an illegal payment to someone to get something done
  • verb to give an illegal payment to someone


  • noun money given secretly and usually illegally to someone in authority to get them to help


  • verb to pay someone money secretly and usually illegally to get them to do something for you


  • A payment made to person, often a government official such as a customs officer, to induce favorable treatment.


  • verb to give someone money to get them to help you, especially by doing something dishonest

Origin & History of “bribe”

The origin of bribe is obscure, and its semantic history is particularly involved. The word first turns up in Old French, as a noun meaning ‘piece of bread, especially one given to a beggar’. from this, the progression of senses seems to have been to a more general ‘alms’; then to the ‘practice of living on alms’; then, pejoratively, to simple ‘begging’. From there it was a short step to ‘stealing’, and that was the meaning the verb had when first recorded in English. The shift to the current application to financial corruption occurred in the 16th century, originally, it seems, in the context of judges and others in authority who exacted, or ‘stole’, money in exchange for favours such as lenient sentences.