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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for stool pigeon
Historical Examples
  • "Neither am I asking you to be a stool pigeon," said the detective.

    A Woman at Bay Nicholas Carter
  • 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
  • Was Reese merely a "stool pigeon" or was he an "agent provocateur?"

    The Everett massacre Walker C. Smith
  • Of course, it was possible that Kurt was a stool pigeon, leading him on as a test.

    The Time Traders Andre Norton
  • "Which one of you is the stool pigeon," came the harsh query.

    The Voice on the Wire Eustace Hale Ball
  • When the stool pigeon once more stood in the doorway, rattling his half dollars, they followed him into the den of the tiger.

  • "Some doity li'l' stool pigeon," added another, who was more doubtful still.

    The Forged Note Oscar Micheaux
  • I've been expecting just this thing ever since you began playing the game with Conway there as a stool pigeon.

    The Short Cut

    Jackson Gregory
  • Of course, in a case of this sort, "stool pigeon" men are useless, for no professional crooks are involved.

  • “I detest a stool pigeon,” said Mr. Gandiss after Joe the Sweeper had slouched away.

    Guilt of the Brass Thieves Mildred A. Wirt
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 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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