\ ˈgrift How to pronounce grift (audio) \
grifted; grifting; grifts

Definition of grift

transitive verb

: to obtain (money or property) illicitly (as in a confidence game)

intransitive verb

: to acquire money or property illicitly

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Other Words from grift

grift noun
grifter noun

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Grift was born in the argot of the underworld, a realm in which a "grifter" might be a pickpocket, a crooked gambler, or a confidence man-any criminal who relied on skill and wits rather than physical violence-and to be "on the grift" was to make a living by stings and clever thefts. "Grift" may have evolved from "graft," a slightly older word meaning "to acquire dishonestly," but its exact origins are uncertain. We do know that the verb "grift" first finagled its way into print in 1915 in George Bronson-Howard's God's Man: "Grifting ain't what it used to be. Fourteenth Street's got protection down to a system-a regular underworld tariff on larceny."

Examples of grift in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Anna Sorokin, who posed as a German heiress named Anna Delvey to grift her way into a luxurious Manhattan lifestyle, has been released from prison this week after years of backlash for her famous SoHo scam. Erin Corbett,, 14 Feb. 2021 Others, like D’Souza, see an opportunity to grow another social-media tentacle with which to grift that base. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, 10 Nov. 2020 In the time since the coronavirus arrived on these shores, each major player in our healthcare system—insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, and hospitals—has demonstrated its willingness, its compulsion, to grift off the global pandemic. Libby Watson, The New Republic, 30 June 2020 The coronavirus era has plainly shown how unprepared nursing homes were to deal with such a huge crisis, but equally how many of them are eager to grift and skim, even in the direst times. Libby Watson, The New Republic, 26 May 2020 From fancy little pens to fancy little snacks, report after report has emerged of Pruitt using his position and his influence to grift the hell out of taxpayers. Gabriella Paiella, The Cut, 3 July 2018 If nothing else, McFarland’s utter commitment to grifting at just 26 years old is impressive. Jasmine Sanders, The Cut, 13 June 2018 But after using hundreds of fake online identities to grift the online retail giant, the husband and wife team face up to 20 years behind bars for fraud and money laundering. Grace Donnelly, Fortune, 2 Oct. 2017 Not to alarm you, fellow Chicagoans, but someone is trying to grift our fair city: Heinz, that ubiquitous purveyor of ketchup, is trying to sneak the red stuff on your hot dogs. Joseph Hernandez,, 18 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'grift.' 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 grift

1902, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for grift

grift, noun, perhaps alteration of graft

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Cite this Entry

“Grift.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

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