Top 37 Slang For Corruption – Meaning & Usage

Corruption, unfortunately, is a prevalent issue in many societies around the world. Understanding the slang terms associated with corrupt practices can shed light on the various ways it manifests in different contexts. Let’s explore some of the most common and intriguing slang for corruption that you may come across in conversations or news reports. Stay informed and stay ahead of the game with this insightful listicle!

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1. Graft

Graft refers to the act of using one’s position of power or influence for personal gain, often through bribery or embezzlement. It involves the abuse of power for personal enrichment.

  • For example, “The politician was arrested for engaging in graft and accepting bribes.”
  • In a discussion about corruption, one might say, “Graft is a widespread problem in many developing countries.”
  • A news article might mention, “The investigation uncovered a vast network of graft within the company.”

2. Bribery

Bribery is the act of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value with the intent to influence the actions of an individual in a position of power or authority. It is a form of corruption that undermines fair and transparent decision-making processes.

  • For instance, “The businessman was caught on tape offering a bribe to a government official.”
  • In a discussion about ethics, one might argue, “Bribery erodes trust in institutions and hampers economic development.”
  • A news headline might read, “Former CEO sentenced to prison for bribery and corruption charges.”

3. Kickback

A kickback refers to a form of bribery where a portion of the payment or contract value is returned to the person who awarded the contract or facilitated the deal. It is a hidden or secret payment made as a reward for favorable treatment.

  • For example, “The construction company paid a kickback to the government official who awarded them the contract.”
  • In a discussion about corruption in business, one might say, “Kickbacks are a common practice in some industries.”
  • A whistleblower might come forward and say, “I have evidence of kickbacks being paid to secure government contracts.”

4. Sleaze

Sleaze refers to dishonest, unethical, or corrupt behavior, often associated with individuals in positions of power or authority. It implies a lack of moral integrity and a willingness to engage in shady or underhanded practices.

  • For instance, “The tabloid newspaper was known for its sleaze and sensationalism.”
  • In a discussion about politics, one might say, “The candidate’s campaign was marred by allegations of sleaze and corruption.”
  • A journalist might write, “The investigation uncovered a web of sleaze and illicit activities within the company.”

5. Grease someone’s palm

To grease someone’s palm means to bribe someone, usually by giving them money or gifts, in order to gain favor or secure an advantage. It implies a corrupt exchange of money for preferential treatment.

  • For example, “The businessman greased the politician’s palm to secure a lucrative government contract.”
  • In a discussion about corruption, one might say, “Greasing someone’s palm is an unfortunate reality in many industries.”
  • A news article might report, “The investigation revealed a culture of greasing palms among public officials.”

6. Payola

Payola is a term used to describe the practice of bribing someone, typically a radio station or DJ, to play a particular song or artist. It is a form of corruption within the music industry.

  • For example, “The record label engaged in payola to ensure their artist’s song received airplay.”
  • A music industry insider might say, “Payola has been a problem for decades, with artists and labels trying to buy their way to success.”
  • A discussion about the influence of money in the music industry might include comments like, “Payola is just one example of how corruption can impact the music we hear.”

7. Skimming

Skimming refers to the act of taking a portion of money, usually cash, illicitly and without detection. It often involves stealing money from a business or organization without their knowledge or consent.

  • For instance, “The employee was caught skimming money from the cash register.”
  • A discussion about financial crimes might mention skimming as one method used to embezzle funds.
  • In a conversation about the impact of corruption, skimming might be cited as an example of how individuals exploit their positions for personal gain.

8. Embezzlement

Embezzlement is the act of dishonestly withholding or misappropriating funds entrusted to one’s care, typically by an employee or a person in a position of trust. It involves using funds for personal use rather than for their intended purpose.

  • For example, “The accountant was arrested for embezzlement after siphoning off company funds.”
  • A discussion about white-collar crime might focus on embezzlement as a common offense.
  • In a conversation about government corruption, embezzlement might be mentioned as one way public officials exploit their positions for personal gain.

9. Racketeering

Racketeering refers to the operation of an organized and often illegal business or enterprise, typically involving extortion, fraud, and other criminal activities. It is often associated with organized crime syndicates.

  • For instance, “The mob boss was charged with racketeering for his involvement in various illegal activities.”
  • A discussion about the influence of organized crime might include references to racketeering as a key component.
  • In a conversation about corruption in certain industries, racketeering might be cited as a pervasive problem.
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10. Slush fund

A slush fund is a secret fund or account that is used for illicit purposes, such as bribery or political corruption. It is often used to finance activities that are not publicly disclosed or accounted for.

  • For example, “The politician was found to have been using a slush fund to finance their extravagant lifestyle.”
  • A discussion about political corruption might mention slush funds as a common method used to hide illicit activities.
  • In a conversation about financial crimes, slush funds might be cited as a way individuals and organizations evade detection and accountability.

11. Under the table

This phrase refers to illegal or secret dealings, often involving bribes or kickbacks, that are conducted outside of official channels or without proper documentation.

  • For example, “The politician was caught accepting money under the table in exchange for favorable legislation.”
  • In a discussion about corruption in business, someone might say, “Many companies engage in under-the-table transactions to avoid taxes.”
  • A news article might report, “The investigation revealed a network of under-the-table payments to government officials.”

12. Sweetheart deal

A “sweetheart deal” refers to an agreement or deal that is unusually favorable or advantageous to one party, often due to personal connections, bribery, or corruption.

  • For instance, “The company was awarded a sweetheart deal by the government, giving them exclusive rights and tax breaks.”
  • In a discussion about political corruption, someone might say, “Many politicians receive sweetheart deals from lobbyists in exchange for supporting certain policies.”
  • A news headline might read, “Investigation uncovers sweetheart deals between construction companies and government officials.”

13. Dirty money

This term refers to money that has been obtained through illegal activities, such as bribery, embezzlement, or drug trafficking. It can also refer to money that is untraceable or has been laundered to hide its origins.

  • For example, “The criminal organization used dirty money to fund their operations.”
  • In a discussion about financial crimes, someone might say, “Money laundering is the process of making dirty money appear clean.”
  • A news report might state, “The politician was found with a large sum of dirty money hidden in offshore bank accounts.”

14. Palm-greasing

This phrase refers to the act of bribing someone, usually a public official or authority figure, in order to gain an advantage or special treatment.

  • For instance, “The construction company engaged in palm-greasing to secure government contracts.”
  • In a discussion about political corruption, someone might say, “Palm-greasing is a common practice in some countries to bypass regulations and gain favors.”
  • A news article might report, “The investigation uncovered a network of palm-greasing among high-ranking officials.”

15. Influence peddling

This term refers to the practice of using personal connections, often in politics or business, to gain influence or favors for personal gain.

  • For example, “The lobbyist was accused of influence peddling, using his connections to sway political decisions.”
  • In a discussion about corruption, someone might say, “Influence peddling is a major issue in the political landscape, where money and connections can buy influence.”
  • A news headline might read, “Former government official charged with influence peddling in corruption scandal.”

16. Cronyism

Cronyism refers to the practice of giving jobs or favors to friends or close associates, often without regard for their qualifications or abilities. It involves nepotism and favoritism, where personal relationships are prioritized over merit or fairness.

  • For example, “The CEO’s appointment of his college roommate to a high-level position is a clear case of cronyism.”
  • In a political context, someone might say, “The mayor’s cronyism is undermining public trust in the government.”
  • A critic of a company’s hiring practices might accuse them of “engaging in cronyism instead of hiring the most qualified candidates.”

17. Nepotism

Nepotism refers to the practice of showing favoritism or giving preferential treatment to one’s family members, particularly in the context of employment or promotions. It involves using one’s power or influence to secure opportunities for relatives, often without considering their qualifications or abilities.

  • For instance, “The CEO’s decision to hire his nephew for a key position is a clear example of nepotism.”
  • In a discussion about fair hiring practices, someone might argue, “Nepotism undermines equal opportunities for qualified candidates.”
  • A critic of a political leader might accuse them of “filling their administration with relatives through nepotism.”

18. Slush money

Slush money refers to funds that are set aside or secretly allocated for corrupt purposes, often used to bribe or influence individuals. It is typically money that is obtained through illegal or unethical means and is kept off the books or hidden from public scrutiny.

  • For example, “The politician used slush money to secure contracts for their supporters.”
  • In a discussion about financial crimes, someone might say, “Slush money is often used to facilitate corruption and maintain control.”
  • A journalist investigating a corruption scandal might uncover evidence of “a slush fund used to pay off influential figures.”
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19. Fixer

A fixer is a person who specializes in making arrangements or resolving issues, often through illicit or unethical means. They are typically hired to manipulate or influence outcomes, particularly in corrupt or illegal activities.

  • For instance, “The mob boss had a fixer who would take care of any problems that arose.”
  • In a discussion about political scandals, someone might say, “A fixer was hired to cover up the corruption and protect those involved.”
  • A person familiar with the criminal underworld might warn, “Beware of fixers who promise to solve your problems but only perpetuate corruption.”

20. Dirty politics

Dirty politics refers to the use of unethical or corrupt practices in the political arena to gain an advantage or achieve certain outcomes. It involves tactics such as bribery, blackmail, propaganda, and manipulation, which undermine the integrity and fairness of the political process.

  • For example, “The candidate engaged in dirty politics by spreading false rumors about their opponent.”
  • In a discussion about campaign finance, someone might argue, “Dirty politics thrives when there is a lack of transparency and accountability.”
  • A political commentator might criticize a party’s tactics, saying, “They resort to dirty politics instead of engaging in honest debates and policy discussions.”

21. Shady dealings

This term refers to dishonest or questionable activities, especially those involving illegal or unethical practices. “Shady dealings” can encompass a wide range of corrupt actions.

  • For example, a news article might report, “The politician was involved in shady dealings with a construction company.”
  • In a conversation about corporate corruption, someone might say, “There’s a lot of shady dealings happening behind closed doors.”
  • A person discussing the underworld might comment, “The mob is known for their shady dealings in various industries.”

22. Fraudulent activity

This term refers to any activity that involves deceit or trickery in order to gain an unfair advantage or financial benefit. “Fraudulent activity” often refers to illegal actions that deceive others for personal gain.

  • For instance, a financial advisor might be accused of engaging in fraudulent activity by misappropriating clients’ funds.
  • In a discussion about online scams, someone might warn, “Be careful of fraudulent activity on fake shopping websites.”
  • A person sharing their personal experience might say, “I was a victim of fraudulent activity when someone stole my credit card information.”

23. Skim off the top

This phrase is used to describe the act of taking a portion of money or resources for personal gain, especially in a dishonest or illegal manner. “Skimming off the top” typically refers to siphoning off funds without detection.

  • For example, a news report might state, “The corrupt executive was skimming off the top of the company’s profits.”
  • In a conversation about government corruption, someone might say, “Politicians often find ways to skim off the top of public funds.”
  • A person discussing white-collar crime might comment, “Embezzlers are experts at skimming off the top without raising suspicion.”

24. Hush money

This term refers to money that is paid to someone in order to keep them quiet or prevent them from revealing damaging information. “Hush money” is often associated with bribery or blackmail.

  • For instance, a tabloid might report, “The celebrity paid hush money to prevent the release of scandalous photos.”
  • In a discussion about corporate cover-ups, someone might say, “They used hush money to keep employees from speaking out.”
  • A person sharing their personal experience might comment, “I was offered hush money to keep quiet about a corrupt business deal.”

25. Fix

This term refers to the act of arranging or manipulating a situation, often in a dishonest or corrupt manner, to achieve a desired outcome. “Fix” can be used in various contexts, such as sports, elections, or legal proceedings.

  • For example, a sports fan might say, “The referee was bribed to fix the game.”
  • In a conversation about political corruption, someone might comment, “They’re trying to fix the election by manipulating the voting process.”
  • A person discussing judicial misconduct might argue, “The judge was paid off to fix the outcome of the trial.”

26. Crooked deal

This refers to a dishonest or fraudulent deal, typically involving bribery or illegal activities. The term “crooked deal” suggests that the transaction is not conducted in a fair or honest manner.

  • For example, “The politician was involved in a crooked deal with a construction company.”
  • In a discussion about corruption in business, someone might say, “Crooked deals are often done behind closed doors.”
  • A journalist investigating corruption might write, “The exposé revealed a web of crooked deals within the government.”

27. Baksheesh

Originating from Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, “baksheesh” refers to the act of giving or receiving a bribe. It is often used to describe the practice of offering money or favors in exchange for preferential treatment or to influence a decision.

  • For instance, “He had to pay baksheesh to get his passport processed quickly.”
  • In a conversation about corruption in politics, one might say, “Baksheesh is a common occurrence in some countries.”
  • A traveler might share their experience, “I had to give baksheesh to get through customs without any issues.”

28. Lining one’s pockets

This phrase refers to the act of illegally or dishonestly accumulating wealth for personal gain. It implies that someone is taking advantage of their position or authority to enrich themselves.

  • For example, “The CEO was caught lining his pockets with company funds.”
  • In a discussion about corruption in the workplace, one might say, “Some employees resort to lining their pockets when they feel undervalued.”
  • A journalist reporting on a corruption scandal might write, “The investigation revealed how politicians were lining their pockets with taxpayer money.”

29. Fiddle the books

To “fiddle the books” means to deliberately manipulate or alter financial records in order to deceive others or hide illicit activities. It is commonly associated with fraudulent accounting practices.

  • For instance, “The company was caught fiddling the books to inflate their profits.”
  • In a conversation about white-collar crime, one might say, “Fiddling the books is a common tactic used to commit fraud.”
  • An accountant discussing unethical practices might warn, “It’s important to have checks and balances in place to prevent employees from fiddling the books.”

30. Cook the books

Similar to “fiddle the books,” to “cook the books” means to manipulate financial records or engage in fraudulent accounting practices. The term implies that the person or organization is intentionally distorting financial information for personal gain or to deceive others.

  • For example, “The CEO was found guilty of cooking the books to inflate the company’s value.”
  • In a discussion about corporate scandals, one might say, “Cooking the books can lead to severe legal consequences.”
  • A financial analyst analyzing a company’s financial statements might suspect foul play and say, “Something doesn’t add up here. It looks like they’re cooking the books.”

31. Racket

A racket refers to an illegal or fraudulent scheme or business operation. It is often used to describe organized crime activities or any illegal enterprise that generates profit.

  • For example, “The mafia was involved in various rackets, including gambling and drug trafficking.”
  • In a discussion about corruption, one might say, “Politicians who engage in bribery are part of a larger racket.”
  • A news article might report, “Authorities busted a major racket involved in money laundering.”

32. Crooked

Crooked is a slang term used to describe someone who is dishonest or involved in corrupt practices. It can refer to individuals who engage in illegal activities or abuse their power for personal gain.

  • For instance, “The crooked politician was caught accepting bribes.”
  • In a conversation about corruption, someone might say, “We need to expose the crooked officials.”
  • A news headline might read, “Crooked CEO sentenced to prison for embezzlement.”

33. Embezzle

Embezzle means to fraudulently or unlawfully take or misappropriate funds or assets entrusted to one’s care, especially in a professional or corporate setting.

  • For example, “The accountant was caught embezzling money from the company.”
  • In a discussion about financial crimes, someone might say, “Embezzlement is a serious offense that can lead to severe penalties.”
  • A news report might state, “The CEO was arrested for embezzling millions of dollars from the company.”

34. Siphon off funds

To siphon off funds means to secretly divert or transfer money or resources for personal use or illegal purposes, often without detection.

  • For instance, “The corrupt official was siphoning off public funds into offshore accounts.”
  • In a conversation about financial misconduct, someone might say, “They used shell companies to siphon off funds from the organization.”
  • A news article might report, “The CEO was found guilty of siphoning off investor funds for personal expenses.”

35. Bribe money

Bribe money refers to the illicit payment or money given to someone in a position of power or authority to influence their actions or decisions in one’s favor.

  • For example, “The businessman offered bribe money to secure a government contract.”
  • In a discussion about corruption, someone might say, “Bribe money is often used to circumvent legal procedures.”
  • A news headline might read, “Politician caught accepting bribe money from a lobbyist.”

36. Payoff

A payoff refers to a sum of money or other valuable consideration given to someone in order to ensure a desired outcome or to influence their behavior in a corrupt manner.

  • For example, “The politician was caught accepting a payoff from a construction company in exchange for awarding them a lucrative contract.”
  • In a discussion about corruption, one might say, “Payoffs are often used to secure unfair advantages in business and politics.”
  • A news article might report, “The investigation uncovered a network of payoffs involving high-ranking officials.”

37. Greedy grab

A greedy grab refers to the act of selfishly acquiring wealth or resources through corrupt or unethical means, often at the expense of others.

  • For instance, “The CEO’s greedy grab for bonuses led to layoffs and reduced benefits for the employees.”
  • In a conversation about corporate corruption, one might say, “Many scandals involve executives engaging in greedy grabs for personal gain.”
  • A news headline might read, “Politician’s greedy grab for campaign funds raises ethical concerns.”