pi·​ra·​cy | \ ˈpī-rə-sē How to pronounce piracy (audio) \
plural piracies

Definition of piracy

1 : an act of robbery on the high seas also : an act resembling such robbery
2 : robbery on the high seas
3a : the unauthorized use of another's production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright
b : the illicit accessing of broadcast signals

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for piracy


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of piracy in a Sentence

piracy on the high seas many countries have harsh penalties for piracy now
Recent Examples on the Web The takeover collapsed amid concerns about piracy and human rights complaints. Rob Harris, Star Tribune, "Amnesty critical of FIFA leader starring in Saudi PR video," 8 Jan. 2021 The West African coast overtook Southeast Asia last year as the worst area for reported piracy and kidnappings at sea, with the number of seafarers seized rising by more than 50%, according to a study. Verity Ratcliffe, Bloomberg.com, "Ship Is Secured After Hijacking Off West Africa, Maersk Says," 20 Dec. 2020 Despite a global decline in piracy in 2019, attacks have continued in the Gulf of Guinea this year, especially off Nigeria’s coast. Verity Ratcliffe, Bloomberg.com, "Ship Is Secured After Hijacking Off West Africa, Maersk Says," 20 Dec. 2020 By season 5, the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance), a loosely aligned group of factions with no small amount of violence and piracy in their collective past, is trying to go legit as the ruling government for the outer solar system. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "The Expanse S5 review: The show is bigger, bolder, and better than ever," 11 Dec. 2020 Challenges for streaming services on the continent are many: piracy, expensive mobile data and slow internet speeds as well as poverty. Alexandra Wexler, WSJ, "Netflix Ups the Ante in Africa," 22 Dec. 2020 One man admitted to earning more than $1 million from his piracy operations. Jordan Valinsky, CNN, "10 years in prison for illegal streaming? It's in the Covid-19 relief bill," 22 Dec. 2020 Team Xecuter also earned negative attention from some in the hacking scene for being more explicit than most in directly acknowledging the piracy elephant in the room. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Console hackers are shocked after DOJ arrests prominent mod-chip makers," 8 Oct. 2020 The change also increased the odds of piracy, especially overseas, where pirates routinely point a video camera at the screen from a theater seat and then sell copies. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, "Lessons from HBO Max’s streaming surprise," 10 Dec. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of piracy

1537, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for piracy

Medieval Latin piratia, from Late Greek peirateia, from Greek peiratēs pirate

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about piracy

Statistics for piracy

Last Updated

17 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Piracy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piracy. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for piracy



English Language Learners Definition of piracy

: the act of attacking and stealing from a ship at sea
: the act of illegally copying someone's product or invention without permission
: the act of illegally making television or radio broadcasts


pi·​ra·​cy | \ ˈpī-rə-sē How to pronounce piracy (audio) \
plural piracies

Kids Definition of piracy

1 : robbery of a ship at sea
2 : the use of another's work or invention without permission


pi·​ra·​cy | \ ˈpī-rə-sē How to pronounce piracy (audio) \
plural piracies

Legal Definition of piracy

1 : an act of robbery especially on the high seas specifically : an illegal act of violence, detention, or plunder committed for private ends by crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft against another ship or aircraft on the high seas or in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state — see also air piracy
2a : the unauthorized copying, distribution, or use of another's production (as a film) especially in infringement of a copyright software piracy
b : the unauthorized use, interception, or receipt of encoded communications (as satellite cable programming) especially to avoid paying fees for use the statute's purpose is to proscribe the piracy of programming signalsUnited States v. Harrell, 983 F.2d 36 (1993)
3 : the crime of committing piracy

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on piracy

What made you want to look up piracy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!