[ brahyb ]
/ braɪb /
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See synonyms for: bribe / bribed / bribing / bribable on Thesaurus.com

money or any other valuable consideration given or promised with a view to corrupting the behavior of a person, especially in that person's performance as an athlete, public official, etc.: The motorist offered the arresting officer a bribe to let him go.
anything given or serving to persuade or induce: The children were given candy as a bribe to be good.
verb (used with object), bribed, brib·ing.
to give or promise a bribe to: They bribed the reporter to forget about what he had seen.
to influence or corrupt by a bribe: The judge was too honest to be bribed.
verb (used without object), bribed, brib·ing.
to give a bribe; practice bribery.
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Origin of bribe

1350–1400; Middle English <Middle French: remnant of food given as alms, said to be < an expressive base *bri(m)b- denoting something small


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does bribe mean?

A bribe is money or something else of value offered or given to someone to get them to do something you want them to do, especially something they’re not supposed to do.

Bribe can also be used as a verb meaning to offer or give someone a bribe. The act of doing so is called bribery.

In most cases, this refers to the often illegal act of offering money to people in official positions, like politicians, government officials, or sports referees, in order to get them to change an outcome to be more favorable to the person offering the bribe. For example, a businessperson might bribe a senator to vote a certain way, which is of course illegal.

Bribe can also refer to offering an incentive (or the incentive itself) to someone to do something, especially a child, as in I tried bribing the kids with TV time as a reward for cleaning up their room, but apparently even bribes don’t work because they didn’t do it. 

Example: The video clearly shows the lobbyist presenting the senator a briefcase full of money as a bribe for a favorable vote—it’s an open-and-shut case of bribery.

Where does bribe come from?

The first records of the word bribe come from the 1300s (though of course people have certainly been bribing each other for much longer than that). It comes from a Middle French word meaning “remnant of food given as alms.”

Bribery is often illegal. Bribing government officials is always illegal, and this is the kind of bribe you often hear about in the news, when such corruption has been uncovered. A bribe like this can result in prison time. But bribes frequently happen in much less official situations. The classic example is slipping the host at a restaurant a bribe to get a table without a reservation. While such bribes aren’t illegal, they’re almost always unethical.

What’s the difference between bribery and extortion? Extortion is basically the act of requiring a bribe from someone, or forcing someone to provide money or favors in some other corrupt way.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to bribe?

What are some words that often get used in discussing bribe?

What are some words bribe may be commonly confused with?

How is bribe used in real life?

The word bribe is most often used in a legal context referring to corruption cases involving officials who have taken money in exchange for doing something they shouldn’t.



Try using bribe!

Is bribe used correctly in the following sentence?

Just because the bribe wasn’t money doesn’t mean this isn’t a case of bribery.

How to use bribe in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bribe

/ (braɪb) /

to promise, offer, or give something, usually money, to (a person) to procure services or gain influence, esp illegally
a reward, such as money or favour, given or offered for this purpose
any persuasion or lure
a length of flawed or damaged cloth removed from the main piece

Derived forms of bribe

bribable or bribeable, adjectivebriber, noun

Word Origin for bribe

C14: from Old French briber to beg, of obscure origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012