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verb (used with or without object)
  1. to steal, especially in small quantities.
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Origin of pilfer

1540–50; v. use of late Middle English pilfre booty < Middle French pelfre. See pelf
Related formspil·fer·er, nounun·pil·fered, adjective


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

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Examples from the Web for pilfered

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Listen to him, and there never was a man so traded on,—so robbed and pilfered from.

    Tony Butler

    Charles James Lever

  • With their usual frankness they quite admitted that I might have pilfered the shilling.

    Tom, Dick and Harry

    Talbot Baines Reed

  • For if I had read yours first you might have said that I had pilfered from you.

    The Letters of Cicero, Volume 1

    Marcus Tullius Cicero

  • “I thought some one had pilfered something,” she said with an attempt at a laugh.

    Phoebe, Junior

    Mrs [Margaret] Oliphant

  • He also had his own lawyer, to see that he was pilfered according to rule.

    Framley Parsonage

    Anthony Trollope

British Dictionary definitions for pilfered


  1. to steal (minor items), esp in small quantities
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Derived Formspilferer, nounpilfering, noun

Word Origin

C14 pylfre (n) from Old French pelfre booty; see pelf
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 pilfered



1540s, from pilfer (n.) "spoils, booty," c.1400, from Old French pelfre "booty, spoils" (11c.), of unknown origin, possibly related to pelf. Related: Pilfered; pilfering.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper