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[burk] /bɜrk/
verb (used with object), burked, burking.
to murder, as by suffocation, so as to leave no or few marks of violence.
to suppress or get rid of by some indirect maneuver.
Origin of burke
after W. Burke, hanged in 1829 in Edinburgh for murders of this kind
Related forms
burker, burkite
[bur-kahyt] /ˈbɜr kaɪt/ (Show IPA),
noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for burking


verb (transitive)
to murder in such a way as to leave no marks on the body, usually by suffocation
to get rid of, silence, or suppress
Word Origin
C19: named after William Burke, executed in Edinburgh for a murder of this type


Edmund. 1729–97, British Whig statesman, conservative political theorist, and orator, born in Ireland: defended parliamentary government and campaigned for a more liberal treatment of the American colonies; denounced the French Revolution
Robert O'Hara. 1820–61, Irish explorer, who led the first expedition (1860–61) across Australia from south to north. He was accompanied by W. J. Wills, George Grey, and John King; King alone survived the return journey
William. 1792–1829, Irish murderer and body snatcher; associate of William Hare
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for burking



family name (first recorded 1066), from Anglo-Norman pronunciation of Old English burgh. Not common in England itself, but it took root in Ireland, where William de Burgo went in 1171 with Henry II and later became Earl of Ulster. As shorthand for a royalty reference book, it represents "A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom," first issued 1826, compiled by John Burke (1787-1848). As a verb meaning "murder by smothering," it is abstracted from William Burk, executed in Edinburgh 1829 for murdering several persons to sell their bodies for dissection.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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