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[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.
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Examples from the Web for pilfered
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Listen to him, and there never was a man so traded on,—so robbed and pilfered from.

    Tony Butler Charles James Lever
  • With their usual frankness they quite admitted that I might have pilfered the shilling.

    Tom, Dick and Harry Talbot Baines Reed
  • For if I had read yours first you might have said that I had pilfered from you.

    The Letters of Cicero, Volume 1 Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • “I thought some one had pilfered something,” she said with an attempt at a laugh.

    Phoebe, Junior Mrs [Margaret] Oliphant
  • He also had his own lawyer, to see that he was pilfered according to rule.

    Framley Parsonage

    Anthony Trollope
  • The houses of the people had been pilfered of all valuables and then torn down or burned.

    Rinkitink in Oz L. Frank Baum
British Dictionary definitions for pilfered


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
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Word Origin and History for pilfered



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
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