« Back to Glossary Index



The offer or exchange of money, services, sex, or other valuables to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of entrusted power. The benefit does not need to go to the official in question directly – it can go to a spouse, a child, another relative, a friend, or even to the official’s political party as a donation. A bribe is sometimes paid after the fact – for instance, in monthly instalments to the official issuing permits to street vendors as long as they are allowed to operate. This form of bribery is called a kickback. Bribery is widely criminalized, and both the party paying the bribe and the party receiving may be liable (see active bribery/ passive bribery). However, in practice, certain forms of bribery are often exempt from prosecution (see facilitation payments). 

Source: with edits from UNISHKA

Word in Use:

“By the time he was 30, Johnson had spent half his life in prison. A penchant for causing trouble, he was involved in bribery, thievery and pimping.”   Biography of Bumpy Johnson (1905-1968) 

See Also:

Equilibrium Bribes; Active Bribery; Passive Bribery; Yaochō;


AfghanistanMoney for tea; Beans for the kids
ArgentinaCohecho; Soborno; Coima; Cometa
BrazilPropina; Jetto; Jetinho; Caixinha; Graxa; Troco; Nota; Acerto / A little coffee 
CambodiaTea money
ChinaHuilu; Chaqian; Hongbao; Money for Tea. Chinese also refer to Zou Hou Mie, Meaning “the backdoor”
Côte d’IvoireSomething small; Swahili expression kitu kidogo literally means “a small thing”. 
CroatiaMitto; Podmititi (v.) 
Czech RepublicLittle carp or fish
East AfricaChai
EgyptBaksheesh; shay; The term ashaan ad-dukhaan means “something to get cigarettes with ”. 
FrancePot-de-vin; arroser (v.); graisser (v.); a glass of wine 
GermanyShmiergeld (“smoothing money”) 
GreeceBakssissi; In Greek fakelaki means “a little envelope” 
Hausa (West African Language)Toshiyar-baki 
Hong KongHactzien 
HungaryMegvesztegetes; Kezet fogni (v.); Keno penz; Csuszo penz; Lekenyerezni; Lefizetni 
IndiaRishwat; Baksheesh; Ghoos; Hafta; Chai-pani 
IndonesiaSuap; Pungli; Uang sogok 
IranRoshveh / Money for Tea; Beans for the Kids 
ItalyTangento; Omaggi; Spintarella; Bustarella; the term Spintarella translates as “giving a little push”. 
JapanOn; Wairo; Kuroi kiri 
Kiswahili (East African Language)Kutu-kidogo 
MalaysiaSuap; Duit kopi 
MexicoSoborno; Mordida; Refresco; Gratificaci—n; Dinero por debajo de la mesa 
NigeriaKola; Egunje; Dash 
PhilippiansLagay; kotong; suhol; 
RussiaVzyatka; otkat; dat’ na lapu (v.); The Russian dat’ na lapu translates to “give something on the paw”. Russian language and culture contains a few more ambiguous phrases that conceal acts of bribery: dogovorit’sia or “come to the agreement”, pomoch’ drug drugu, meaning “help each other out” and ponimat’ drug druga,“to understand each other” 
SerbiaMitto; Podmititi (v.) 
South KoreaNoemul; Gum eun don; dŸ don; chonji; custom called ttokkap or “rice cake expenses” in South Korea which includes giving envelopes; a glass of soju; Noemul means “giving goods in secret” 
Southeast AsiaKumshaw 
SpainUntar (v.); Soborno 
SyriaRashwah; Finjaan Ôahwa; A cup of coffee;  
ThailandSin bone; Tea Money 
TurkeyRusvet; Cash for Soup 
UkraineHabar; Oplata 
USABribe; Kickback, Payola; Sweetener; Backhander; Hush money; Grease; Wet my beak 
ZaireTarif de verre 


Bribery is thought to be around one trillion dollars worldwide according to BBC news UK, although UNISHKA believes this number to be grossly understated (“BBC NEWS – Business – African corruption ‘on the wane'”. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22.). 

Professor Matthew Stephenson (Harvard) has criticized the term “Passive Bribery” because of its connotation of being “less bad:”  

Describing the act of taking (or demanding) a bribe as “passive bribery” is both an abuse of language and potentially confusing or misleading.” . . . It’s an abuse of language because “passive” doesn’t mean simply “being on the receiving end of,” certainly not in the context of a transaction. . . . Furthermore, to refer to [a corrupt official] as engaged in “passive bribery” is misleading because it connotes a kind of helplessness, or mere acquiescence. . . . These connotations are understandable because they are implied by the actual meaning of the word “passive,” but they’re often wholly inappropriate in the context of a bribe-taking or bribe-demanding official

« Back to Glossary Index