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  1. alcoholic liquor unlawfully made, sold, or transported, without registration or payment of taxes.
  2. the part of a boot that covers the leg.
  3. something, as a recording, made, reproduced, or sold illegally or without authorization: a flurry of bootlegs to cash in on the rock star's death.
verb (used with object), boot·legged, boot·leg·ging.
  1. to deal in (liquor or other goods) unlawfully.
verb (used without object), boot·legged, boot·leg·ging.
  1. to make, transport, or sell something, especially liquor, illegally or without registration or payment of taxes.
  1. made, sold, or transported unlawfully.
  2. illegal or clandestine.
  3. of or relating to bootlegging.

Origin of bootleg

1625–35, Americanism; boot1 + leg; secondary senses arose from practice of hiding a liquor bottle in the leg of one's boot
Related formsboot·leg·ger, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for bootlegger

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "My dear sir," said the bootlegger, with a pained expression.

  • Soon he saw that he was flying faster than the bootlegger ahead of him.

    The Flying Reporter

    Lewis E. (Lewis Edwin) Theiss

  • It seemed to him that he simply must look around and face the bootlegger.

    The Flying Reporter

    Lewis E. (Lewis Edwin) Theiss

  • Are you fellows going to let him in on the bootlegger stuff?

    The Radio Detectives

    A. Hyatt Verrill

  • It was Hugh's first visit to a bootlegger's den, and he was keenly interested.

    The Plastic Age

    Percy Marks

British Dictionary definitions for bootlegger


verb -legs, -legging or -legged
  1. to make, carry, or sell (illicit goods, esp alcohol)
  1. something made or sold illicitly, such as alcohol during Prohibition in the US
  2. an illegally made copy of a CD, tape, etc
  1. produced, distributed, or sold illicitlybootleg whisky; bootleg tapes
Derived Formsbootlegger, noun

Word Origin

C17: see boot 1, leg; from the practice of smugglers of carrying bottles of liquor concealed in their boots
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

Word Origin and History for bootlegger


1889, from bootleg (q.v.).



"leg of a boot," 1630s, from boot (n.1) + leg (n.). As an adjective in reference to illegal iquor, 1889, American English slang, from the trick of concealing a flask of liquor down the leg of a high boot. Before that the bootleg was the place to secret knives and pistols.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper