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  1. willing to sell one's influence, especially in return for a bribe; open to bribery; mercenary: a venal judge.
  2. able to be purchased, as by a bribe: venal acquittals.
  3. associated with or characterized by bribery: a venal administration; venal agreements.

Origin of venal

1645–55; < Latin vēnālis, equivalent to vēn(um) (accusative) for sale (cf. vend) + -ālis -al1
Related formsve·nal·ly, adverbnon·ve·nal, adjectivenon·ve·nal·ly, adverbun·ve·nal, adjective
Can be confusedvenal venial

Synonyms for venal

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Synonym study

1. See corrupt.

Antonyms for venal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for venal

Contemporary Examples of venal

Historical Examples of venal

  • The fate of the children of venal concubines is generally very sad.

  • They were so venal, too, that they aided the enemy rather than us by their movements.

  • And the venal English press which conceals the fact, what shall be said of it?

    Ireland as It Is

    Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)

  • This man was the Tweed of Mexico, and one of the most venal officials ever trusted by the people.

    Aztec Land

    Maturin M. Ballou

  • Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;— I wished the man a dinner, and sat still.

    Essay on Man

    Alexander Pope

British Dictionary definitions for venal


  1. easily bribed or corrupted; mercenarya venal magistrate
  2. characterized by corruptiona venal civilization
  3. open to purchase, esp by briberya venal contract
Derived Formsvenality (viːˈnælɪtɪ), nounvenally, adverb

Word Origin for venal

C17: from Latin vēnālis, from vēnum sale
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 venal

1650s, "offered for sale, capable of being obtained for a price," from French vénal, from Latin venalis "that is for sale," from venum (nominative *venus) "for sale," from PIE root *wes- "to buy, sell" (cf. Sanskrit vasnah "purchase money," vasnam "reward," vasnayati "he bargains, haggles;" Greek onos "price paid, purchase," oneisthai "to buy").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper