from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Open to bribery; mercenary.
  • adjective Characterized by corrupt dealings, especially bribery.
  • adjective Archaic Obtainable for a price.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Ready to sell one's services or influence for money or other valuable consideration, and entirely from sordid motives; bought or to be bought basely or meanly for personal gain; mercenary; hireling: used of persons: as, a venal politician.
  • Characterized by or springing from venality; also, made a matter of sordid bargaining and selling: used of things.
  • Synonyms Venal, Mercenary, Hireling. These words represent a person or thing as ready to be dishonorably employed for pay. Each is strongest in one sense. Venal is strongest in expressing the idea of complete sale to a purchaser—character, honor, principle, and even individuality being surrendered for value received, the venal man doing whatever his purchaser directs, a venal press advocating whatever it is told to advocate. Mercenary is strongest in expressing rapacity, or greed for gain, and activity. Hireling is strongest in expressing servility and consequent contempt, hire having become an ignoble word for pay: as, a hireling soldiery; a hireling defamer. A venal man sells his political or other support; mercenary man sells his work, being chiefly anxious to get as much pay as possible; a hireling will do mean or base work as long as he is sure of his pay. Venal means a being ready to sell one's principles, whether he makes out to sell them or not; mercenary and hireling suggest more of actual employment.
  • Of or pertaining to the veins; venous: as, venal blood or circulation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective rare Of or pertaining to veins; venous.
  • adjective Capable of being bought or obtained for money or other valuable consideration; made matter of trade or barter; held for sale; salable; mercenary; purchasable; hireling.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective venous; pertaining to veins
  • adjective archaic For sale; available for purchase.
  • adjective Of a position, privilege etc.: available for purchase rather than assigned on merit.
  • adjective Capable of being bought (of a person); willing to take bribes.
  • adjective Corrupt, mercenary.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective capable of being corrupted


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin vēnālis, from vēnum, sale; see wes- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin vena

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French vénal, from Latin venalis, from venum ("something for sale"), cf. vend


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  • There are so many different Latin roots resembling ven-: ones meaning "come", "sell", "hunt", "vein", "love (goddess)", "wind", "forgiveness", "poison", "stomach", and "vengeance" are enough to confuse anyone. I can never quite remember that a venal person is one who can be bought (cf. vend), while a venial sin is one that is forgivable (Latin venia "forgiveness" has no other common English reflexes). The adjective of vein is usually venous but can be both of venal, venial.

    Hunting and love-play are both venery; it would be natural to imagine them metaphorically connected, but they're not. Vengeance has only a post-Classical ven-; the Classical gives us vindicate. Vent is cognate with wind; the root in invent, convenient is cognate with its meaning "come"; ventriloquist related to neither.

    June 1, 2009

  • "Because lips libertine and venal had murmured such words to him, he believed but little the candor of hers; he thought that exaggerated speeches hiding mediocre affections must be discounted; -- as if the fulness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars."

    Flaubert, Madame Bovary, II.xii

    November 9, 2010