hush money


hush money (noun)
/hʌʃ ˈmʌni/


  • a bribe given to someone to keep them from disclosing information.
  • money paid to someone to ensure they keep a secret.
  • a payment made to prevent someone from revealing embarrassing or damaging information.
  • funds provided to someone to buy their silence regarding a sensitive matter.

Example Sentences

  1. The politician was accused of paying hush money to cover up the scandal.
  2. The company paid hush money to the whistleblower to prevent the leak of their environmental violations.
  3. Despite receiving hush money, the journalist decided to publish the story about the corruption case.
  4. They offered him hush money to ensure he wouldn’t testify in court.
  5. She was given hush money to keep quiet about the company’s illegal activities.

Origin and History

The idiom “hush money” has a long and intriguing history that dates back to the early 18th century. Its usage involves paying someone to remain silent about something that could be damaging or embarrassing if disclosed. Let’s explore the various theories and beliefs regarding the origin and evolution of this idiom.

Historical Context and Earliest Usage

The term “hush money” first appeared in the writings of Sir Richard Steele, an Irish playwright and politician, in a publication called The Tatler in 1709. Steele used the term to refer to money given to someone to keep quiet about another’s misdeeds or indiscretions. He wrote:

“I expect Hush-Money to be regularly sent for every Folly or Vice any one commits in this whole Town”.

Etymological Roots

The word “hush” itself comes from the Middle English word “husht,” meaning silent or quiet. This provides a clear indication of the intent behind the payment: to silence someone. The addition of “money” straightforwardly indicates that the silence is being bought.

Legal and Illegal Connotations

“Hush money” can be associated with both legal and illegal activities. Legally, it may be part of a non-disclosure agreement where someone is compensated for their silence about certain matters. However, it often carries a more nefarious connotation, involving bribery or blackmail to conceal illegal or unethical behavior. This dual nature makes “hush money” a complex term with varied implications depending on the context in which it is used.

Modern Examples and Usage

In contemporary settings, “hush money” frequently appears in discussions about political scandals, corporate fraud, and personal indiscretions. High-profile cases, such as the Stormy Daniels-Donald Trump scandal, highlight the term’s relevance in modern times. These situations involve payments to prevent potentially damaging information from becoming public, illustrating the term’s continued significance and its often controversial nature.

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