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[boot-leg] /ˈbutˌlɛg/
alcoholic liquor unlawfully made, sold, or transported, without registration or payment of taxes.
the part of a boot that covers the leg.
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), bootlegged, bootlegging.
to deal in (liquor or other goods) unlawfully.
verb (used without object), bootlegged, bootlegging.
to make, transport, or sell something, especially liquor, illegally or without registration or payment of taxes.
made, sold, or transported unlawfully.
illegal or clandestine.
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 forms
bootlegger, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for bootlegging
Historical Examples
  • We expected him to steal our clothes or have us indicted for bootlegging.

    Watch Yourself Go By Al. G. Field
  • It was just that this man had lied to me, after I had done all his bootlegging work.

    Mystery Ranch Arthur Chapman
  • If McFann is mixed up in anything, from bootlegging to bigger crimes, he is only a tool.

    Mystery Ranch Arthur Chapman
  • Most Montenegrins derive their livelihood, directly or indirectly, from smuggling, bootlegging and illegal immigration.

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
  • He knew where there was drink, and who was organizing the bootlegging business, and what graft the police took.

    The Soul of John Brown Stephen Graham
  • It made us fear that perhaps some of his bootlegging yarns had been colored with the ready fiction of his business.

    Pieces of Hate Heywood Broun
  • Segregation is affiliated with gambling, bootlegging, opium and cocaine joints.

  • What bootlegging had done for the average citizen in the Twenties, the black market was doing for scientists fifty years later.

    Damned If You Don't Gordon Randall Garrett
  • Blind pigs hardly exist, and bootleggers are rare birds who, if they persist in bootlegging, are rapidly converted into jailbirds.

    Abroad at Home

    Julian Street
  • But he'd been trailing McFann for bootlegging and was pretty sure Jim was riding a horse with a broken shoe.

    Mystery Ranch Arthur Chapman
British Dictionary definitions for bootlegging


verb -legs, -legging, -legged
to make, carry, or sell (illicit goods, esp alcohol)
something made or sold illicitly, such as alcohol during Prohibition in the US
an illegally made copy of a CD, tape, etc
produced, distributed, or sold illicitly: bootleg whisky, bootleg tapes
Derived Forms
bootlegger, noun
Word Origin
C17: see boot1, 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
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Word Origin and History for bootlegging

also boot-legging, 1890, 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
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Slang definitions & phrases for bootlegging



: a bottle of bootleg hooch


Whiskey illegally made or sold (1880s+)


  1. To make or sell illegal whiskey and other illegally repackaged products such as music recordings, movies, etc (1906+)
  2. To carry the ball deceptively by holding it against the leg, esp after pretending to hand it off to another player (1950s+ Football)

[fr the idea of concealment in the upper part of one's boots]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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