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[pil-fer] /ˈpɪl fər/
verb (used without object), verb (used with object)
to steal, especially in small quantities.
Origin of pilfer
late Middle English
1540-50; v. use of late Middle English pilfre booty < Middle French pelfre. See pelf
Related forms
pilferer, noun
unpilfered, adjective
thieve, purloin, filch, appropriate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for pilfer
  • Will it create a data set that the less than honest can pilfer.
  • Looters drop by to pilfer whatever scraps of metal still wink of profit.
  • But rebels did not hinder them at checkpoints or pilfer their belongings.
  • Every war has its scavengers, the officers who barter or pilfer supplies that get bogged down in the system.
  • It was bad enough when sitcoms used to pilfer the stories of romantic comedies.
  • The fun begins when two youths head for a neighboring town to pilfer exam papers.
  • Hungry people scaled utility poles to pilfer bits of copper wire to swap for food.
  • Sharks up the food chain take their cut, leaving local pirates to pilfer crews' watches and mobiles.
  • In the event of a disaster, there may be individuals looking to pilfer property, increasing losses and damage on-site.
  • It was difficult to tell if the gulls were hoping for leftovers or looking to pilfer a fish.
British Dictionary definitions for pilfer


to steal (minor items), esp in small quantities
Derived Forms
pilferer, noun
pilfering, 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
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Word Origin and History for pilfer

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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