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See more synonyms for burke on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), burked, burk·ing.
  1. to murder, as by suffocation, so as to leave no or few marks of violence.
  2. to suppress or get rid of by some indirect maneuver.
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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. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for burking

Historical Examples

  • But there is an Ulster difficulty, and no amount of burking it will solve it.

    The Insurrection in Dublin

    James Stephens

  • Two especially; that is to say, the practice of Burking, and bad surgery.

  • The burking of her own letters, sent with unfailing regularity until outraged pride bade her cease, was equally clear.

    The Message

    Louis Tracy

  • Having wrought so assiduously for anatomy, he ended by burking phrenology.

    The Court of Cacus

    Alexander Leighton

  • If a child were lost, the paragraph announcing the fact was headed, “Another supposed case of Burking.”

British Dictionary definitions for burking


verb (tr)
  1. to murder in such a way as to leave no marks on the body, usually by suffocation
  2. to get rid of, silence, or suppress
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Word Origin

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


  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. William . 1792–1829, Irish murderer and body snatcher; associate of William Hare
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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 burking



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper