April 4, 2013

Case File #013.04.04: BRIBE

The Old French word bribe referred to a morsel of food given to a beggar, and when it was first adopted into the English language in the late fourteenth century, it basically meant “alms” or “to give alms.” Some time later, the public began to lump beggars in with vagrants and thieves, and since the English word bribe was still associated with begging, it was now applied rather disparagingly. But the term's current connotations of political payola and monetary malfeasance didn't really come about until the mid-sixteenth century, when bribe was used in connection with judges and legal authorities who were known for “begging” the accused to provide money or other favors in exchange for leniency.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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