To grease someone’s palm is an idiom with roots in ancient times. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom grease someone’s palm, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
Grease someone’s palm means to bribe that person, give him a gratuity, or to give him money in exchange for favors. For instance, a restaurant patron may grease the maître d’s palm in order to obtain a favorable table. The expression grease someone’s palm came into use in English in the 1500s and is related to the fact that applying grease to a mechanical moving part makes it move more smoothly. The expression grease someone’s palm has its roots in ancient Rome, when Pliny the Younger referred to unguentarium, which translates as “ointment money.” Related phrases are greases someone’s palm, greased someone’s palm, greasing someone’s palm.
“For every crooked politician or bureaucrat, there will be a businessman willing to grease his palm.” (The Sun Daily)
He said the vehicles would be detained until the lockdown lifted, but if they wanted an immediate release they should grease his palm. (The Times of India)
Lopez also resided rent-free in an Oakland Township, N.J., mansion owned by the contractor who was greasing his palm. (The New York Daily News)