See more synonyms for bootleg on
  1. alcoholic liquor unlawfully made, sold, or transported, without registration or payment of taxes.
  2. the part of a boot that covers the leg.
  3. something, as a recording, made, reproduced, or sold illegally or without authorization: a flurry of bootlegs to cash in on the rock star's death.
verb (used with object), boot·legged, boot·leg·ging.
  1. to deal in (liquor or other goods) unlawfully.
verb (used without object), boot·legged, boot·leg·ging.
  1. to make, transport, or sell something, especially liquor, illegally or without registration or payment of taxes.
  1. made, sold, or transported unlawfully.
  2. illegal or clandestine.
  3. of or relating to bootlegging.

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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
  1. to make, carry, or sell (illicit goods, esp alcohol)
  1. something made or sold illicitly, such as alcohol during Prohibition in the US
  2. an illegally made copy of a CD, tape, etc
  1. 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