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The Complete Vocabulary Builder Workbook



How to pronounce pilfer (audio)

Dictionary definition of pilfer

To steal or take small items or insignificant amounts of goods, often in a secretive or furtive manner.
"The raccoons would often pilfer food from our trash cans."

Detailed meaning of pilfer

It involves the unauthorized and stealthy taking of items that are typically of lesser value or importance. Pilfering differs from more significant forms of theft or robbery in that it typically involves subtle and inconspicuous actions, with the intention to go unnoticed or avoid detection. Those who pilfer may take items discreetly, especially when in close proximity to others or in situations where supervision is minimal. Pilfering can occur in various contexts, such as from a workplace, a store, someone's belongings, or even public spaces. Although individual acts of pilfering may seem relatively minor, repeated instances can have a significant impact, resulting in loss, mistrust, and damage to the affected party.

Example sentences containing pilfer

1. He was caught trying to pilfer some candy from the store.
2. It's not uncommon for birds to pilfer shiny objects for their nests.
3. The squirrels always pilfer the birdseed from the feeders in our backyard.
4. I've noticed that some employees pilfer office supplies for personal use.
5. Pirates used to pilfer treasures from merchant ships on the high seas.
6. You should not pilfer books from the library; it's stealing.

History and etymology of pilfer

The term 'pilfer' has its origins in Middle English, where it was originally spelled as 'pylferen' or 'pelfren.' Its etymology can be traced back to the Old French word 'pelfrer,' which meant to plunder or rob. The Old French word, in turn, derived from the Late Latin 'piliferrare,' where 'pilus' meant 'hair' and 'ferre' meant 'to carry.' This etymological evolution is intriguing as it suggests that the act of pilfering might have initially referred to stealing small items, akin to plucking individual hairs, and gradually evolved into its modern connotation of taking insignificant amounts of goods in a furtive manner.

Quiz: Find the meaning of pilfer

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Further usage examples of pilfer

1. She managed to pilfer a few cookies from the jar without her mom noticing.
2. The cat likes to pilfer toys from the neighbor's yard.
3. As a spy, he was trained to pilfer important documents without detection.
4. In the old days, bandits would pilfer goods from travelers on the roads.
5. To pilfer from the company's funds is both unethical and illegal.
6. Magpies are known to pilfer small, shiny objects and bring them back to their nests.
7. Be careful when you travel; pickpockets can pilfer your belongings in crowded places.
8. The children devised a plan to pilfer snacks from the kitchen late at night.
9. The mischievous raccoon attempted to pilfer snacks from the campsite.
10. She would often pilfer office supplies and hide them in her desk.
11. Thieves pilfered valuable artifacts from the museum under cover of darkness.
12. The pickpocket managed to pilfer my wallet without me noticing.
13. He tried to pilfer cookies from the jar when no one was looking.
14. The employee was caught trying to pilfer company documents.
15. Petty thieves often pilfer small items from unlocked cars.
16. The cat would sneak into the neighbor's garden to pilfer tomatoes.
17. Kids sometimes pilfer candy from the store when unsupervised.
18. The beggar tried to pilfer coins from the distracted tourists.
19. The cunning magpie would pilfer shiny objects from the yard.
20. Shoplifters frequently pilfer merchandise and evade detection.
21. The suspect attempted to pilfer jewels from the jewelry store.
22. He would pilfer spare change from his sister's piggy bank.
23. The pirates attempted to pilfer treasures from the sunken ship.
24. Thieves managed to pilfer electronics from the unguarded truck.
25. The cunning squirrel would pilfer birdseed from the feeder.
26. She suspected her roommate would pilfer her snacks when she was away.
27. The burglars were caught trying to pilfer valuables from the safe.
28. He had a tendency to pilfer office supplies, thinking no one would notice.



steal, return, give, contribute


GRE 12 (Graduate Record Examination), Criminal Justice and Penalties, Crime and Lawlessness

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