Hush money

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The term hush money is probably older than you thought, over three hundred years old. Whether hush money is legal or illegal depends on the circumstances and the intent of paying the hush money. We will examine the definition of the expression hush money, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Hush money is an amount of legal tender that is paid to someone in order to keep them quiet about something or to buy their silence concerning a certain topic. Usually this involves statements involving a revelation that would leave the general public shocked, and may create headlines, or even end with an indictment. Hush money may take the form of a bribe, money that is donated to a pet cause, or other illegal methods. Withdrawing money from a bank account without proof as to where it is going may signal an extortion scheme. Hush money is often paid in order to conceal scandal in politics, especially when moral wrongdoing threatens the election of a candidate to political office, either to Congress, the presidency or even the local dog catcher. Hush money may also be used in order to hide public corruption or an allegation of  fraud, or to stymie an investigation involving such diverse criminal charges as money laundering, physical abuse, sexual misconduct or endangering the public by failing to adhere to building codes. The FBI is often called upon to investigate corruption and other federal charges. Hush money may also be paid in order to simply cover up embarrassing facts, such as an extramarital affair. Celebrities are often victims of extortionists looking for hush money. These criminals can easily make an accusation of which the celebrity might be not guilty, but bringing a lawsuit against an accuser who threatens to publicly embarrass the victim may only bring more controversy. Agreeing to a settlement instead fighting the allegations with a lawsuit may be considered hush money, but it is legal. Words that are considered synonyms and are found in a thesaurus are: payola, graft, bribe, kickback.

The expression hush money has been in use since at least 1709, and was first used by Sir Richard Steele in a publication called The Tatler: ”I expect Hush-Money to be regularly sent for every Folly or Vice any one commits in this whole Town.” Steele was an Irish playwright and politician. The word hush is derived from the Middle English word husht, meaning silent. Note that hush money is an open compound word, which are one composed of two words that are used together, yet a space remains between them without the use of a hyphen.


The California attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels said he now represents three more women who were allegedly paid hush money before the election to silence them about affairs with Donald Trump. (USA Today)

The tape was reputedly made by his former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, who is under federal investigation in New York for his business dealings and reportedly whether hush payments violated campaign finance laws. (The Beverley Hills Courier)

One of President Trump’s top fundraisers secured a “crushingly one-sided” hush-money deal with a former Playboy playmate whom he impregnated, then withheld most of the $1.6 million that he promised to pay her, according to a lawsuit released Tuesday. (The Los Angeles Times)

More than three months since news broke of Farenthold’s taxpayer-funded hush money and after four members of Congress have resigned following claims of sexual harassment, Congress still has not fixed the problem. (The Corpus Christi Caller Times)