September 21, 2012
pilfer (verb)
\PIL-fer\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: to steal articles of small value or in small amounts
How do you use it?
Abby put out some special treats for the squirrels in the hope that they would stop pilfering food from the bird feeder.
Are you a word wiz?

There are a number of words besides "pilfer" that mean taking little things or little bits of things that don't belong to you. Which of these words do you think is one of them?

If you nipped answer D, you made the right choice. "Pilfer" implies stealing repeatedly in small amounts, as in "pilfered from his employer." "Filch," meanwhile, adds a suggestion of snatching quickly and in a sneaky manner, such as "filched another cookie from the tray." "Purloin," another synonym, stresses removing or carrying off something for your own use or purposes, as for example, "purloined secret government documents." "Steal" may apply to any taking of something in secret and differs from the other terms by being applied to material things, such as money, as well as to things that are impossible to touch, as in "stole a look at the gifts." Other words with similar meanings are "rob," "swipe," and "thieve."
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