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 formsboot·leg·ger, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for bootlegger

moonshiner, rumrunner

Examples from the Web for bootlegger

Contemporary Examples of bootlegger

Historical Examples of bootlegger

  • "My dear sir," said the bootlegger, with a pained expression.

  • Soon he saw that he was flying faster than the bootlegger ahead of him.

    The Flying Reporter

    Lewis E. (Lewis Edwin) Theiss

  • It seemed to him that he simply must look around and face the bootlegger.

    The Flying Reporter

    Lewis E. (Lewis Edwin) Theiss

  • Are you fellows going to let him in on the bootlegger stuff?

    The Radio Detectives

    A. Hyatt Verrill

  • It was Hugh's first visit to a bootlegger's den, and he was keenly interested.

    The Plastic Age

    Percy Marks

British Dictionary definitions for bootlegger


verb -legs, -legging or -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 illicitlybootleg whisky; bootleg tapes
Derived Formsbootlegger, noun

Word Origin for bootleg

C17: see boot 1, 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

Word Origin and History for bootlegger

1889, 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