Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[pil-fer] /ˈpɪl fər/
verb (used with or without object)
to steal, especially in small quantities.
Origin of pilfer
late Middle English
1540-50; v. use of late Middle English pilfre booty < Middle French pelfre. See pelf
Related forms
pilferer, noun
unpilfered, adjective
thieve, purloin, filch, appropriate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for pilfer
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He had some sort of an idea that he might pilfer the hospitality of his enemies.

    The Eyes of the Woods

    Joseph A. Altsheler
  • The women make baskets, beg, pilfer, or sift and grind corn.

    Gipsy Life George Smith
  • I have been shown the best spots, and I pilfer as well as I can—that is all.

    Myths of the Rhine X. B. Saintine
  • If they win, they grab at booty; if they lose, they unhorse and pilfer their own side!

    The Bbur-nma in English

    Babur, Emperor of Hindustan
  • At all events, if she did pilfer, she was neither suspected nor discovered.

  • The movements of the red-haired girl were not those of one who sought to pilfer.

    A Book of Ghosts Sabine Baring-Gould
  • I suspect he has a plot with his apprentices to pilfer a portion of the metal.

  • The central idea of this modern folly about the potato is that you must pilfer the root.

    Custom and Myth Andrew Lang
  • The canonesses claim that we pilfer their friends away from them.

    The Iron Pincers Eugne Sue
British Dictionary definitions for pilfer


to steal (minor items), esp in small quantities
Derived Forms
pilferer, noun
pilfering, noun
Word Origin
C14 pylfre (n) from Old French pelfre booty; see pelf
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for pilfer

1540s, from pilfer (n.) "spoils, booty," c.1400, from Old French pelfre "booty, spoils" (11c.), of unknown origin, possibly related to pelf. Related: Pilfered; pilfering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for pilfer

Word Value for pilfer

Scrabble Words With Friends