phreak·​er ˈfrē-kər How to pronounce phreaker (audio)
: one who gains illegal access to the telephone system
phreaking noun

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Phreakers are people who specialize in attacks on the telephone system. The word, which became popular in the mid-1980s, is probably a combination of the words phone and freak. (Phreakers are also known as "phreaks" or "phone phreaks.") In the early days, phreakers whistled or used an instrument to mimic the tones the phone system then used to route calls and identify payment, especially as a way to avoid paying for an expensive call. Modern phreaking involves breaking into and manipulating the phone company's computer system, making it a specialized kind of hacking.

Examples of phreaker in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In fact, the friends’ first business venture together was marketing blue boxes to aspiring phreakers. Laura Yan, Popular Mechanics, 22 Oct. 2019

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

Word History


short for phone phreaker, from phone phreak (as a verb) + -er entry 2 — more at phreak

Note: The collocation phone phreaker occurs in the Esquire article cited in the note at phreak.

First Known Use

1984, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of phreaker was in 1984


Dictionary Entries Near phreaker

Cite this Entry

“Phreaker.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

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