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90s Slang You Should Know

stool pigeon

a pigeon used as a decoy.
Also called stoolie
[stoo-lee] /ˈstu li/ (Show IPA),
stooly. Slang. a person employed or acting as a decoy or informer, especially for the police.
Origin of stool pigeon
An Americanism dating back to 1820-30 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for stool pigeon
Historical Examples
  • “I detest a stool pigeon,” said Mr. Gandiss after Joe the Sweeper had slouched away.

    Guilt of the Brass Thieves Mildred A. Wirt
  • "Neither am I asking you to be a stool pigeon," said the detective.

    A Woman at Bay Nicholas Carter
  • Altogether, there was no help for it; Steamboat Dan must yield to his destiny of stool pigeon or pay the penalty in stripes.

    The President Alfred Henry Lewis
  • If I were to guess at it I should say he was a detective's stool pigeon.

    The Crime of the Century Henry M. Hunt
  • Of course, in a case of this sort, "stool pigeon" men are useless, for no professional crooks are involved.

  • Was Reese merely a "stool pigeon" or was he an "agent provocateur?"

    The Everett massacre Walker C. Smith
  • Knowing from Molly that Texas was a stool pigeon he understood the philosophy of the high-priced counters.

    Bulldog Carney W. A. Fraser
  • "Which one of you is the stool pigeon," came the harsh query.

    The Voice on the Wire Eustace Hale Ball
  • Of course, it was possible that Kurt was a stool pigeon, leading him on as a test.

    The Time Traders Andre Norton
  • When the stool pigeon once more stood in the doorway, rattling his half dollars, they followed him into the den of the tiger.

British Dictionary definitions for stool pigeon

stool pigeon

a living or dummy pigeon used to decoy others
an informer for the police; nark
(US, slang) a person acting as a decoy
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 stool pigeon

"police informer," 1868, American English; earlier "one who betrays the unwary (or is used to betray them)," 1821, originally a decoy bird (1812); said to be from decoys being fastened to stools to lure other pigeons. But perhaps related to stall "decoy bird" (c.1500), especially "a pigeon used to entice a hawk into the net" (see stall (n.2)). Also cf. pigeon.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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stool pigeon in Culture

stool pigeon definition

An informer, especially for the police: “Lefty figured out that Mugsy was the stool pigeon when he saw him talking to the warden.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for stool pigeon

stool pigeon

noun phrase

A police informer; snitch, squealer: In New York he is also called a stool-pigeon

[1930+ Underworld; fr earlier sense ''decoy,'' fr the early 1800s practice of fastening pigeons and other birds to stools or stands as decoys; this term was applied to the decoy or ''hustler'' for a faro bank]

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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Idioms and Phrases with stool pigeon

stool pigeon

A decoy or informer, especially a police spy. For example, Watch out for Doug; I'm sure he's a stool pigeon for the supervisor. This term alludes to a bird tied to a stool or similar perch in order to attract other birds, which will then be shot. However, one writer believes that stool is a variant for stale or stall, both nouns used for a decoy bird before 1500 or so. [ c. 1820 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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