\ ˈbilk How to pronounce bilk (audio) \
bilked; bilking; bilks

Definition of bilk

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to block the free development of : frustrate fate bilks their hopes
2a : to cheat out of something valuable : defraud bilking investors out of their life savings
b : to evade payment of or to bilks his creditors
c : to obtain (something) by defrauding someone The Tampa couple sent out phony sonograms and bilked money from couples wanting children, authorities say.— Brady Dennis
3 : to slip away from bilked her pursuers



Definition of bilk (Entry 2 of 2)

: an untrustworthy tricky individual : cheat

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from bilk


bilker noun

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


an investigation revealed that the garage had been bilking motorists for repairs that had never been made


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: Verb

Left-leaning groups have been among the biggest beneficiaries of cy pres, but even the Court’s liberals should be troubled when putative class-action victims are bilked by self-dealing corporations and plaintiff attorneys. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Class-Action ‘Charity’ Racket," 30 Oct. 2018 Baker’s comments come amid a broadening federal investigation into potential fraud inside the State Police, where prosecutors say three troopers allegedly bilked taxpayers out of tens of thousands of dollars in 2016 alone. Matt Stout,, "State Police ‘conspiracy’ could go back years, Baker says," 30 June 2018 At a news conference in Washington, the agency said the development, known by names that include Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay and the Reserve, bilked about 1,000 investors, mostly Americans, out of over $100 million. Katy Mclaughlin, WSJ, "FTC Alleges Major Real-Estate Scam," 8 Nov. 2018 Prosecutors allege Pam bilked the estates of most of the proceeds from the sale of the Sanford Street home by arranging a sham transaction in which his then-girlfriend, Jasmin Deangelo, purportedly purchased the property for $140,000 in April 2015. Laura Crimaldi,, "Pam family members go on trial for allegedly scamming elderly siblings out of Mattapan home," 13 July 2018 The government, under the inattentive care of Democrats, may have been bilked for ages by a man the FBI has alleged to be a fraudster. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, "The Scandal That Matters," 3 Aug. 2017 In 2014, a contractor working on his house, Noel Muir, bilked him out of nearly all of the $500,000 that Mr. Taylor had received for the Kyoto Prize; Mr. Muir was sentenced to one to three years in prison. Ben Ratliff, New York Times, "Cecil Taylor, Pianist Who Defied Jazz Orthodoxy, Is Dead at 89," 6 Apr. 2018 Tens of millions of people are ensnared in these pyramid schemes that use cult-like techniques to brainwash their targets and bilk them out of their money. The Economist, "A multi-level scourgePyramid schemes cause huge social harm in China," 3 Feb. 2018 Some Jamaicans see little wrong with bilking Americans. The Economist, "Bad vybzIn Jamaica’s tourist hub, a state of emergency," 25 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And, despite its super hinky backstory, a bronze behemoth of bilk is taking shape in Everett. Yvonne Abraham,, "Is gambling here to stay?," 17 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bilk.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of bilk


1641, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1777, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bilk

Verb and Noun

perhaps alteration of balk entry 2

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about bilk

Listen to Our Podcast about bilk

Dictionary Entries near bilk







bill and coo

Statistics for bilk

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bilk

The first known use of bilk was in 1641

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for bilk



English Language Learners Definition of bilk

chiefly US, informal : to cheat or trick (a person or organization) especially by taking money

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on bilk

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bilk

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bilk

Spanish Central: Translation of bilk

Nglish: Translation of bilk for Spanish Speakers

Comments on bilk

What made you want to look up bilk? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing great care, attention, and effort

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!