filched; filching; filches

transitive verb

: to steal secretly or casually
filch a cookie

Did you know?

The award-winning 2019 video game Untitled Goose Game, in which players control the titular (or “un-titular”?) waterfowl through several levels of light and family-friendly mayhem, serves as an excellent primer on the meaning of filch. In fact, many of the game’s objectives involve waddling furtively around a quaint little scene, such as a garden, and trying to avoid detection by humans while you pilfer, say, a pumpkin or a woolen hat. To filch is to steal something (usually, though not always, a small or relatively unimportant something) in secret. So why not just use steal? There’s often a distinct twang of humor or mischievousness in filch that’s not inherent in plain old steal, and that reflects a casualness or nonchalance on the part of the silly goose—whether literal or figurative—snatching the pie from the windowsill.

Choose the Right Synonym for filch

steal, pilfer, filch, purloin mean to take from another without right or without detection.

steal may apply to any surreptitious taking of something and differs from the other terms by commonly applying to intangibles as well as material things.

steal jewels
stole a look at the gifts

pilfer implies stealing repeatedly in small amounts.

pilfered from his employer

filch adds a suggestion of snatching quickly and surreptitiously.

filched an apple from the tray

purloin stresses removing or carrying off for one's own use or purposes.

printed a purloined document

Examples of filch in a Sentence

He filched a pack of gum when no one was looking. too hungry to wait until the party had started, he filched a cookie from the buffet table when no one was looking
Recent Examples on the Web The plot about an attempt to filch a special gobstopper is, of course, lifted directly from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), in which another candy maker named Slugworth seeks to undercut his competition. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 29 Feb. 2024 The mental toughness of Walther’s girls was the difference in the end as the Eagles never filched. Timothy Dashiell, Baltimore Sun, 1 Feb. 2024 The ability of corporate directors to hang on to their seats as if with prehensile behinds (to filch Orwell’s turn of phrase) underscores the uselessness of corporate boards. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 20 Dec. 2023 So the first thing to note is that if the charming stranger in this story had filched the woman’s cash or credit cards or phone, no one would have blinked. Amy X. Wang, New York Times, 26 Sep. 2023 Steady Eddie Westfall, 31, a glue guy in the Cups wins of 1970 and ‘72, was filched in the June expansion draft by the new NHL franchise on Long Island. Kevin Paul Dupont,, 19 Aug. 2023 Potentially a far stickier problem, akin to Carolina filching forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Canadiens, is that any one of 31 other teams could deem Swayman, 24, as their franchise goaltender and drop a big number ($6 million?) on a deal of, say, 4-7 years. Kevin Paul Dupont,, 6 May 2023 The Penguins’ knockout blow officially came on Wednesday, when the Islanders filched the East’s last available berth by picking up a 4-2 win at the Bell Centre drive-by window. Kevin Paul Dupont,, 15 Apr. 2023 Of all people to filch a flag, Young would be the last you’d finger. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, 28 July 2021

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

Word History


Middle English

First Known Use

1561, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of filch was in 1561


Dictionary Entries Near filch

Cite this Entry

“Filch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: to steal something slyly : pilfer

More from Merriam-Webster on filch

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