[ kuh-ruhp-shuhn ]
/ kəˈrʌp ʃən /
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Origin of corruption

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English cor(r)upcio(u)n, from Middle French, from Latin corruptiōn-, stem of corruptiō; see origin at corrupt, -ion


an·ti·cor·rup·tion, noun, adjectiveo·ver·cor·rup·tion, nounpre·cor·rup·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does corruption mean?

Corruption most commonly refers to a state in which members of organizations or institutions are engaging in illegal or otherwise dishonest practices to benefit themselves.

The term is most often used in the context of such rulebreaking by people who are powerful or who are responsible for the well-being of others, such as politicians, government officials, and police officers.

Corruption is a noun form of corrupt, which can be an adjective used to describe people who act in this way (or their actions), or a verb meaning to destroy the integrity of someone or something or cause someone to be dishonest.

More generally, corruption can refer to the act or process of someone or something becoming corrupt, depraved, or debased.

More specifically, corruption can refer to the alteration of a word or text in a way that deviates from its original or intended form.

Example: The investigation revealed a long history of corruption within the agency that extends to its highest ranks. 

Where does corruption come from?

The first records of the word corruption come from the 1300s. It ultimately derives from the Latin verb corrumpere, meaning “to ruin” (or literally “to break to pieces”), from the verb rumpere, “to break.”

Corruption happens when the people who are supposed to be upholding the rules break the rules to benefit themselves—typically to get richer or more powerful. The word is most commonly used to describe shady dealings by officials in the government or other organizations (as opposed to ordinary citizens). Perhaps the most common and well-known example of corruption is bribery, and in fact corruption can be used as a synonym of bribery.

When people refer to the corruption of a person, it usually involves a debasing of their values or morality (at least in the judgment of the person using the word). In the context of language and words, corruption happens all the time as words evolve and get introduced into other languages. This sense of the word is less negative than others. In the context of software, data corruption and file corruption happen due to various errors that result in files being lost or unable to be opened.

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What are some other forms related to corruption?

  • anticorruption (noun, adjective)
  • overcorruption (noun)
  • precorruption (noun)
  • corrupt (adjective, verb)

What are some synonyms for corruption?

What are some words that share a root or word element with corruption

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

How is corruption used in real life?

Corruption is most commonly used in the context of institutional corruption, especially in government and politics.



Try using corruption!

Is corruption used correctly in the following sentence?

The corruption of your values has led you to make many bad decisions.

How to use corruption in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for corruption

/ (kəˈrʌpʃən) /

the act of corrupting or state of being corrupt
moral perversion; depravity
dishonesty, esp bribery
putrefaction or decay
alteration, as of a manuscript
an altered form of a word

Derived forms of corruption

corruptionist, noun
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