Grease someone’s palm

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To grease someone’s palm is an idiom with roots in ancient times. 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)