\ 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

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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

The film, starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu as ex-strippers bilking wealthy clientele for cash, premieres Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival before opening nationwide Sept. 13. Jen Yamato,, "How Lorene Scafaria’s ‘Hustlers’ turned a tabloid stripper drama into an ode to female empowerment," 9 Sep. 2019 He was freed from the misery of that boarding school only when Sarah, having been bilked by a fortune hunter, went broke and had to withdraw him. Jonathan Dee, The New Yorker, "Why Lafcadio Hearn’s Ghost Stories Still Haunt Us," 9 Sep. 2019 The film, starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu as ex-strippers bilking wealthy clientele for cash, premieres Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival before opening nationwide Sept. 13. Los Angeles Times, "How Lorene Scafaria’s ‘Hustlers’ turned a tabloid stripper drama into an ode to female empowerment," 6 Sep. 2019 Authorities say Hunter Hanson, of Leeds, bilked about 60 farmers, elevators and commodity brokers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. Dave Kolpack, Twin Cities, "Ex-North Dakota grain trader, 22, signs plea deal in multimillion-dollar fraud scheme," 18 June 2019 As early as 1792, during Washington’s presidency, former Assistant Treasury Secretary William Duer bilked the Treasury of $250,000 and, through insider trading, caused a financial panic. James M. Banner Jr., Time, "Corruption, Cover-Ups and the Shocking Presidential History to Remember as Robert Mueller Testifies," 22 July 2019 In a long story and an episode of the Times’ new Hulu show, Jack Nicas investigates how overseas scammers posing as American servicemen bilk women out of their savings. Casey Newton, The Verge, "It’s time to regulate tech platforms with laws, not fines," 30 July 2019 Matthew Proudfoot, who with his father bilked more than 100 investors out of $3.9 million by convincing them to invest in a fraudulent gold-mining company, was sentenced Monday to two years in prison., "Former Oregon man sentenced to 2 years in prison for defrauding investors in gold-mining scam," 8 July 2019 In December, Von Kurnatowski sold the famed 1,000-cap venue to funk band Galactic, weeks after five investors filed a lawsuit claiming Von Kurnatowski bilked them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars related to investment in his Bond Fund One. Dave Brooks, Billboard, "Former Tipitina's Owner Reportedly Being Investigated By FBI," 19 June 2019

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.

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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 1

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Dictionary Entries near bilk







bill and coo

Statistics for bilk

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bilk

The first known use of bilk was in 1641

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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

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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

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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