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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 pilferer

Historical Examples

  • Dear Mr. Pilferer,—In answer to your note, I have nothing to say of any interest.

    Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 98, January 18, 1890


  • Now we've caught the pilferer, and we'll make an example of her!

  • He was no pilferer, and scorned to carry off so mean a booty.

    American Sketches

    Charles Whibley

  • Mercury, says he, a pilferer by trade, loves his nails too well to let them be pared.

    Finger-Ring Lore

    William Jones

  • What have you done with my piece of writing paper, you pilferer?

    Dead Souls

    Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

British Dictionary definitions for pilferer


  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 pilferer



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