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stool pigeon

a pigeon used as a decoy.
Also called stoolie
[stoo-lee] /ˈstu li/ (Show IPA),
stooly. Slang. a person employed or acting as a decoy or informer, especially for the police.
Origin of stool pigeon
1820-30, Americanism Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for stool-pigeon
Historical Examples
  • He was a humane man, and in spite of his belief in the stool-pigeon system, he introduced good things into Sing Sing.

    The Autobiography of a Thief Hutchins Hapgood
  • He'd tell them why some day and they'd know that Tim Murphy wasn't no "stool-pigeon."

    Spring Street James H. Richardson
  • Do you take me fer a stool-pigeon, to go into such a deal with my eyes blinded?

    Dangerous Ground Lawrence L. Lynch
  • If there were no thieves, where would the stool-pigeon and detective find their profits?

    American Sketches Charles Whibley
  • A stool-pigeon consorts with criminals, that he may overhear their plans, and betray them to the police.

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

    The Secret of the Night Gaston Leroux
  • Now, the stool-pigeon in this trick is a swell English crook.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • Burke's account of the plot in which the stool-pigeon had been the agent offered too many complications.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • If some stool-pigeon tips him off to the police, and he is sent to stir, he invariably suspects the wrong person.

    The Autobiography of a Thief Hutchins Hapgood
  • You are right; they fooled us on a stool-pigeon; this whole thing was a put-up job.

    The Preacher of Cedar Mountain Ernest Thompson Seton
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
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Word Origin and History for stool-pigeon

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
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stool-pigeon in Culture

stool pigeon definition

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

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for stool-pigeon



Violent and pugilistic; rough and sense of an apprentice, especially one unskilled at or vicious: I never even touched the slut and now there's learning a theatrical turn of some sort while serving gonna be some sort of stompass scene (1970s+) as the underling of a master]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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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 Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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