bribe (n.)

late 14c., "thing stolen," from Old French bribe "a gift," properly "bit, piece, hunk; morsel of bread given to beggars" (14c., compare Old French bribeor "vagrant, beggar"), from briber, brimber "to beg," a general Romanic word (compare Spanish briba "vagrancy," Italian birbone "a vagrant"); Gamillscheg marks the French word as Rotwelsch, i.e. thieves' jargon. The whole group is of uncertain origin; old sources suggest it could be Celtic (compare Breton breva, Welsh briwo "to break") and akin to break (v.). Shift of meaning to "gift given to influence corruptly" is by mid-15c.

bribe (v.)

late 14c., "to pilfer, steal, take dishonestly," also "practice extortion," from Old French briber "go begging," from bribe "a gift" (see bribe (n.)). The meaning "gain or corrupt by a bribe" is from 1520s. Related: Bribed; bribing.

updated on October 23, 2022