Share this entry

venal Line breaks: venal
Pronunciation: /ˈviːn(ə)l/

Definition of venal in English:


Showing or motivated by susceptibility to bribery; corrupt: local customs officers are notoriously venal their generosity had been at least partly venal
More example sentences
  • Leaders have offered the people little but venal, corrupt governance for decades.
  • That said, of course there are many self serving, venal politicians.
  • But politicians are expected to be venal and self-serving if given the chance.
corrupt, corruptible, bribable, open to bribery, purchasable, buyable, grafting;
dishonest, fraudulent, dishonourable, untrustworthy, unscrupulous, unprincipled;
mercenary, avaricious, grasping, rapacious
informal bent, crooked, warped, shady


Mid 17th century (in the sense 'available for purchase', referring to merchandise or a favour): from Latin venalis, from venum 'thing for sale'.

  • This adjective meaning ‘motivated by susceptibility to bribery’ was initially used in the sense ‘available for purchase’, referring to merchandise or a favour. Latin venalis is the source, from venum ‘thing for sale’.


On the difference between venal and venial, see venial (usage).



Pronunciation: /viːˈnalɪti/
Example sentences
  • Back then, the venality of the criminals was often matched by the corruption of the police.
  • One after another, scandal stories have tumbled onto front pages during the past month - tales of sordid excess, gross stupidity, evil venality and troubling secrecy in high places.
  • It's not like we've a shortage of venality, corruption and lust (not to mention hypocrisy) in this country.


Example sentences
  • The argument seemed so compellingly moral and just, the counter-argument so venally self-interested.
  • Lately, I've been thinking a lot about history of this industry and how stupidly and/or venally it has been managed.
  • Children are quite capable, I think, of appreciating when playing along is to their advantage and, less venally, when playing along is something they think will please their parents.

Words that rhyme with venal

adrenal, officinal, penal, renal

Definition of venal in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day whippersnapper
Pronunciation: ˈwɪpəsnapə
a young, inexperienced person considered presumptuous or overconfident...