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bilked; bilking; bilks

transitive verb

: to block the free development of : frustrate
fate bilks their hopes
: to cheat out of something valuable : defraud
bilking investors out of their life savings
: to evade payment of or to
bilks his creditors
: to obtain (something) by defrauding someone
The Tampa couple sent out phony sonograms and bilked money from couples wanting children, authorities say.Brady Dennis
: to slip away from
bilked her pursuers
bilker noun


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: an untrustworthy tricky individual : cheat

Did you know?

Initially, "bilking" wasn't considered cheating-just good strategy for cribbage players. Language historians aren't sure where "bilk" originated, but they have noticed that its earliest uses occur in contexts referring to cribbage. Part of the scoring in cribbage involves each player adding cards from his or her hand to a pile of discards called the "crib." At the end of a hand, the dealer gets any points in the crib. Strategically, then, it's wisest for the dealer's opponent to discard non-scoring cards-the ones most likely to "balk," or put a check on, the dealer's score. Etymologists theorize that "bilk" may have originated as an alteration of that card-game "balk."

Examples of bilk in a Sentence

Verb an investigation revealed that the garage had been bilking motorists for repairs that had never been made Noun people who lost money in the scheme discovered that the investment company was a fake and the “owner” just a bilk
Recent Examples on the Web
Scammers bilked that age group out of $3.4 billion last year, pushing losses up 11% compared to 2022. Nick Rockel, Fortune, 3 May 2024 In May 2023, while facing a House ethics probe, Santos was arrested on federal fraud charges that accuse him of bilking political donors. Brian Mann, NPR, 24 Apr. 2024 The accomplished deceiver impersonated mostly top female execs like former Sony chair Amy Pascal and Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy to target industry creators with promises of career-changing work in Indonesia, only to bilk them of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Apr. 2024 Over the past five years, American timeshare owners were bilked out of $288 million, according to the F.B.I., through various types of scams, including those run by the cartel. Maria Abi-Habib, New York Times, 21 Mar. 2024 The two businesses were among the ring’s 10 Miami-Dade pharmacies used to bilk Medicare, the indictment says. Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, 29 Mar. 2024 In that fraud case — the largest in California’s recent history — charter operators manipulated student attendance records and funding to bilk the state of $400 million in public school dollars. Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Mar. 2024 Jimmy Jenkins More than a dozen people have filed a lawsuit claiming they were collectively bilked out of more than $1 million after they were drugged at East Valley strip clubs. The Arizona Republic, 27 Mar. 2024 His guilty plea to charges filed in January followed the conviction of the first BSO employee to face trial on charges of bilking the Paycheck Protection Program. Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, 6 Mar. 2024
And, despite its super hinky backstory, a bronze behemoth of bilk is taking shape in Everett. Yvonne Abraham,, 17 May 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bilk.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

perhaps alteration of balk entry 1

First Known Use


1641, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1777, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bilk was in 1641


Dictionary Entries Near bilk

Cite this Entry

“Bilk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2024.

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