pla·​gia·​rism | \ˈplā-jə-ˌri-zəm also -jē-ə- \

Definition of plagiarism 

1 : an act or instance of plagiarizing

2 : something plagiarized

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from plagiarism

plagiarist \ˈplā-​jə-​rist also -​jē-​ə \ noun
plagiaristic \ˌplā-​jə-​ˈri-​stik also -​jē-​ə-​ \ adjective

The Kidnapping Roots of Plagiarize

If schools wish to impress upon their students how serious an offense plagiarism is, they might start with an explanation of the word’s history. Plagiarize (and plagiarism) comes from the Latin plagiarius “kidnapper.” This word, derived from the Latin plaga (“a net used by hunters to catch game”), extended its meaning in Latin to include a person who stole the words, rather than the children, of another. When plagiarius first entered English in the form plagiary, it kept its original reference to kidnapping, a sense that is now quite obsolete.

Examples of plagiarism in a Sentence

The student has been accused of plagiarism.

Recent Examples on the Web

The University of London cleared Werling of intentional plagiarism but has yet to act on his offer to resign. Adam Marcus,, "Retraction Watch: Whoops, my bad," 6 Apr. 2018 And Okonta's university and others have made plagiarism checks a part of faculty promotion reviews. Linda Nordling, Science | AAAS, "In Nigeria, a battle against academic plagiarism heats up," 27 June 2018 The group will hold a session on preventing plagiarism in August at its annual meeting in Ondo City, Nigeria. Linda Nordling, Science | AAAS, "In Nigeria, a battle against academic plagiarism heats up," 27 June 2018 Where do the The Shape of Water plagiarism accusations currently stand? Eliza Berman, Time, "Everything to Know About the Shape of Water Plagiarism Controversy," 1 Mar. 2018 The investigation concluded that Rao had not only fabricated data and plagiarism, but that the scientist also had tried to coerce kickbacks from his underlings. Adam Marcus,, "Retraction Watch: Fall from grace," 29 June 2018 If imitation is the best form of flattery, plagiarism may well be the dumbest. Ian Bremmer, Time, "5 Politicos With Questionable Academic Credentials," 5 Mar. 2018 But Whitaker was also repeatedly accused of plagiarism. Jason Pohl, azcentral, "Phoenix police to undergo up to $450K implicit bias and cultural competency training," 5 July 2018 This is the question that may protect you from publishing a fabrication, a plagiarism, a libel. John E. Mcintyre,, "Secrets of editing revealed!," 30 May 2018

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

1621, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for plagiarism



English Language Learners Definition of plagiarism

: the act of using another person's words or ideas without giving credit to that person : the act of plagiarizing something


pla·​gia·​rism | \ˈplā-jə-ˌri-zəm \

Kids Definition of plagiarism

: an act of copying the ideas or words of another person without giving credit to that person

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on plagiarism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with plagiarism

Spanish Central: Translation of plagiarism

Nglish: Translation of plagiarism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of plagiarism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about plagiarism

Comments on plagiarism

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


having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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