'Bung' has a few uses in English.

  • It is a stopper of a bottle.
  • It to throw.

But also it is a bribe or enticement.

The word bung seems to have become less popular over time (after a staggering peak in the 1820s) however the 'bribe' usage seems more modern. Where did the 'bribe' usage of the term come from?

A couple of examples

The BBC remained defiant in the face of Harry Redknapp's fierce denial of any wrongdoing last night and promised their investigation into bungs in football would deliver damning new revelations about some of the country's top clubs. source


The Labour first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has described the agreement as a “straight bung to keep a weak prime minister and a faltering government in office” source

and even The Economist uses it here

Bribery offered an average return of 10-11 times the value of the bung paid out to win a contract

  • Please cite (and link to) an instance of bung used in the sense of bribe.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:20
  • 2
    @Lawrence There are many.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:29
  • Even though you've rejected my corrections, you should know that *english is always spelled English in... English, among other obvious mistakes you have made. Jun 27, 2017 at 9:43
  • 1
    @User26328 was not intentional rejection, changes conflicted with mine so I could not approve. Jun 27, 2017 at 9:46
  • 2
    My aforementioned 1980s OED mentions that bung was a purse in the 1560's and that a "bung-nipper" was a cut-purse or pickpocket. I have to admit that I discounted this as being unrelated when I gave my answer - but perhaps it might be related to the idea of giving someone "a purse of monies".
    – Lefty
    Jun 27, 2017 at 17:04

4 Answers 4


According to the The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English bung meaning to bribe is a UK slang expression from the '50s.


  • money in the form of a bribe, from the early English meaning of pocket and purse, and pick-pocket, according to Cassells derived from Frisian (North Netherlands) pung, meaning purse. Bung is also a verb, meaning to bribe someone by giving cash.

(Money Slang)

According to the following source "to bung" meaning to bribe is marked as "criminal slang" in the OED, and it usage may be traced back to the first part of the 19th century as a slang way of saying "to throw something with a little extra force."

(Kick the Bucket and Swing the Cat: The Complete Balderdash & Piffle ... by Alex Games)

  • That is interesting, I'd assumed it was a much more modern usage. Jun 27, 2017 at 9:53
  • Lots of novel words and phrases live in the community that created them for a long time, before breaking out into mainstream usage, usually as a result of being used in a film, book, tv series etc. That was probably the case here (I'd guess The Sweeney or something from around that time). Jun 27, 2017 at 12:44

Interestingly, my OED from the 1980's has no reference to "bung" in either the "throw" or the "bribe" sense, although I've certainly been using the former since at the least the 1970's.

I think my first encounter with the "bribe" sense was much later - probably 1990's or even 2000's - and I always assumed it to be derived from the "throw" sense. You could imagine an envelope of cash being "bunged" at the corrupt person.

  • The online OED has 'bung' as a verb (1950) and a noun (1958) meaning 'bribe'.
    – Dan
    Jun 27, 2017 at 10:13
  • Very strange - but good information, thank you!
    – Lefty
    Jun 27, 2017 at 10:27

My father used to use the word "bung" as a verb, as in "he bunged the councillor some money to make sure the planning permission went through."

My Collins dictionary from the 1980s has the bribery meaning in both verb and noun form.


In Dickens “Sketches of Boz” (1839) Mr Bung’s supporters in an election provided inducements designed to encourage votes for him.

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