stool pigeon


a pigeon used as a decoy.
Also called stool·ie [stoo-lee] /ˈstu li/, stooly. Slang. a person employed or acting as a decoy or informer, especially for the police.

Origin of stool pigeon

An Americanism dating back to 1820–30 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stool pigeon

Historical Examples of stool pigeon

  • Now, the stool-pigeon in this trick is a swell English crook.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • He'd tell them why some day and they'd know that Tim Murphy wasn't no "stool-pigeon."

    Spring Street

    James H. Richardson

  • If there were no thieves, where would the stool-pigeon and detective find their profits?

    American Sketches

    Charles Whibley

  • Do you take me fer a stool-pigeon, to go into such a deal with my eyes blinded?

    Dangerous Ground

    Lawrence L. Lynch

  • Among them Annouchka had the ignoble nickname, "Stool-pigeon."

British Dictionary definitions for stool pigeon

stool pigeon


a living or dummy pigeon used to decoy others
an informer for the police; nark
US slang a person acting as a decoy
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 stool pigeon

"police informer," 1868, American English; earlier "one who betrays the unwary (or is used to betray them)," 1821, originally a decoy bird (1812); said to be from decoys being fastened to stools to lure other pigeons. But perhaps related to stall "decoy bird" (c.1500), especially "a pigeon used to entice a hawk into the net" (see stall (n.2)). Also cf. pigeon.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for stool pigeon

stool pigeon

An informer, especially for the police: “Lefty figured out that Mugsy was the stool pigeon when he saw him talking to the warden.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with stool pigeon

stool pigeon

A decoy or informer, especially a police spy. For example, Watch out for Doug; I'm sure he's a stool pigeon for the supervisor. This term alludes to a bird tied to a stool or similar perch in order to attract other birds, which will then be shot. However, one writer believes that stool is a variant for stale or stall, both nouns used for a decoy bird before 1500 or so. [c. 1820]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.