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

Examples from the Web for bootlegging

Historical Examples of bootlegging

  • We expected him to steal our clothes or have us indicted for bootlegging.

  • It was just that this man had lied to me, after I had done all his bootlegging work.

    Mystery Ranch

    Arthur Chapman

  • If McFann is mixed up in anything, from bootlegging to bigger crimes, he is only a tool.

    Mystery Ranch

    Arthur Chapman

  • Most Montenegrins derive their livelihood, directly or indirectly, from smuggling, bootlegging and illegal immigration.

    After the Rain

    Sam Vaknin

  • He knew where there was drink, and who was organizing the bootlegging business, and what graft the police took.

British Dictionary definitions for bootlegging


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 bootlegging

also boot-legging, 1890, 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