1

pillage

noun pil·lage \ ˈpi-lij \
Updated on: 23 Nov 2017

Definition of pillage

1 : the act of looting or plundering especially in war
2 : something taken as booty

Examples of pillage in a Sentence

  1. the pirate ship was laden with the pillage of merchant ships from across the Spanish Main

Recent Examples of pillage from the Web

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

The Various Uses of pilfer

Pilfer is a synonym of steal, but it typically implies a particular kind of stealing. What is pilfered is usually stolen stealthily—furtively, so that no one will notice—in small amounts and often again and again. One might, for example, pilfer cookies from a cookie jar until a plentiful supply has dwindled to nothing. The word is sometimes used for that kind of stealing: the stealthy and gradual stealing of something that isn't worth much anyway:

Money was tight enough that Dickey's family used silverware pilfered from the local Western Sizzlin….
— L. Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated 2 Apr. 2012

But it is also used when the stolen things are valuable indeed, and the act of pilfering a serious criminal act:

For generations, scavengers have prowled this city with impunity, pouncing on abandoned properties and light poles to pilfer steel, copper and other metals they could trade for cash at scrapyards. The practice left tens of thousands of buildings so damaged that they could not be restored, turning places like the North End into grim cityscapes that appeared to have been ravaged by a tornado.
— John Eligon, The New York Times, 15 Mar. 2015

Pilfer may remind one of a similar also-serious word: pillage. The two words share more than a first syllable; pilfer comes from an old word meaning "booty" (as in, things that are stolen or taken by force, especially during a war) and pillage means "to take things from a place by force especially during a war." But despite their similarities, the words in modern use are very different. Pilfer has long since shed the connotations of violence in its etymological past; what's pilfered is not taken violently. Pillage, on the other hand, remains firmly rooted in violence and especially war; it is not a term you apply when someone's been sneaking cookies from a cookie jar.

Origin and Etymology of pillage

Middle English pilage, from Anglo-French, from piler to rob, plunder

pillage Synonyms

Synonyms
booty, loot, plunder, spoil, swag
Related Words
prize; catch, haul, take, treasure; pilferage; windfall

2

pillage

verb

Definition of pillage

pillaged; pillaging
transitive verb
: to plunder ruthlessly : loot
intransitive verb
: to take booty

pillager

noun

Examples of pillage in a Sentence

  1. The enemy pillaged the town.

  2. The town was pillaged and burned.

  3. barbarians known for looting and pillaging

Recent Examples of pillage from the Web

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

First Known Use of pillage

circa 1593

pillage Synonyms

Synonym Discussion of pillage

ravage, devastate, waste, sack, pillage, despoil mean to lay waste by plundering or destroying. ravage implies violent often cumulative depredation and destruction.
    • a hurricane ravaged the coast
devastate implies the complete ruin and desolation of a wide area.
    • an earthquake devastated the city
waste may imply producing the same result by a slow process rather than sudden and violent action.
    • years of drought had wasted the area
sack implies carrying off all valuable possessions from a place.
    • barbarians sacked ancient Rome
pillage implies ruthless plundering at will but without the completeness suggested by sack.
    • settlements pillaged by Vikings
despoil applies to looting or robbing without suggesting accompanying destruction.
    • the Nazis despoiled the art museums

PILLAGE Defined for English Language Learners

pillage

verb

Definition of pillage for English Language Learners

  • : to take things from (a place, such as a city or town) by force especially during a war : to loot or plunder (a place)


PILLAGE Defined for Kids

1

pillage

noun pil·lage \ ˈpi-lij \

Definition of pillage for Students

: the act of robbing by force especially during a war

2

pillage

verb

Definition of pillage for Students

pillaged; pillaging
: to rob by force especially during a war

Law Dictionary

pillage

verb pil·lage \ ˈpi-lij \

legal Definition of pillage

pillaged; pillaging
transitive verb
: to loot or plunder especially in war
intransitive verb
: to take booty

pillage

noun


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