verb (used with object), burked, burk·ing.

to murder, as by suffocation, so as to leave no or few marks of violence.
to suppress or get rid of by some indirect maneuver.

Origin of burke

after W. Burke, hanged in 1829 in Edinburgh for murders of this kind
Related formsburk·er, burk·ite [bur-kahyt] /ˈbɜr kaɪt/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for burker

Historical Examples of burker

  • If Burker heddenta wurkt agin me fer Corner I wuddenta bed to sit on him.

  • A burker was unknown before the crimes of William Burke were made public; burking was an undiscovered art until he discovered it.

British Dictionary definitions for burker


verb (tr)

to murder in such a way as to leave no marks on the body, usually by suffocation
to get rid of, silence, or suppress

Word Origin for burke

C19: named after William Burke, executed in Edinburgh for a murder of this type



Edmund . 1729–97, British Whig statesman, conservative political theorist, and orator, born in Ireland: defended parliamentary government and campaigned for a more liberal treatment of the American colonies; denounced the French Revolution
Robert O'Hara . 1820–61, Irish explorer, who led the first expedition (1860–61) across Australia from south to north. He was accompanied by W. J. Wills, George Grey, and John King; King alone survived the return journey
William . 1792–1829, Irish murderer and body snatcher; associate of William Hare
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

Word Origin and History for burker



family name (first recorded 1066), from Anglo-Norman pronunciation of Old English burgh. Not common in England itself, but it took root in Ireland, where William de Burgo went in 1171 with Henry II and later became Earl of Ulster. As shorthand for a royalty reference book, it represents "A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom," first issued 1826, compiled by John Burke (1787-1848). As a verb meaning "murder by smothering," it is abstracted from William Burk, executed in Edinburgh 1829 for murdering several persons to sell their bodies for dissection.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper