pla·​gia·​rism | \ ˈplā-jə-ˌri-zəm How to pronounce plagiarism (audio) 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 How to pronounce plagiarist (audio) also  -​jē-​ə \ noun
plagiaristic \ ˌplā-​jə-​ˈri-​stik How to pronounce plagiaristic (audio) 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 In January 2020, a fellow author accused Russell of plagiarism. Elisabeth Egan, New York Times, "Oprah’s Book Club Dropped Her Novel. It Still Became a Best Seller.," 2 Apr. 2020 While a plagiarism scandal put pressure on Joe to drop out of the presidential race in 1987, protecting his brother from reporters asking about Jim’s shaky finances was the final impetus for Joe’s withdrawal, according to Cramer. Daniel Golden, ProPublica, "The Profitable Business of Being Joe Biden’s Brother," 17 Feb. 2020 The 2015 jury verdict, largely upheld last year on appeal, signaled that even an international chart-topper wasn't immune from an allegation of plagiarism in a court of law. Eriq Gardner, Billboard, "Marvin Gaye Family Claims in Court That Pharrell Williams Committed Perjury," 8 Dec. 2019 An overzealous journalist mistook compositional transformation for plagiarism, only adding to Golijov’s insecurities. Los Angeles Times, "Review: L.A. Master Chorale revives Golijov’s startling prophetic, globally warmed ‘Oceana’," 22 Oct. 2019 Others point to the principles of academic freedom and truth in learning to say that board members who turned a blind eye to plagiarism charges forgot that their mandate is to provide an ethical education. Dallas News, "After the Allen ISD superintendent left to lead his hometown district, the wheels came off his career," 27 Feb. 2020 The essay gained traction on social media and Russell became the target of plagiarism accusations (which have since been retracted). Colleen Leahey Mckeegan, Marie Claire, "Kate Elizabeth Russell, Author of 'My Dark Vanessa,' on Creating the Book," 28 Feb. 2020 If the Supreme Court adopts a robust merger doctrine, that ruling may one day inform how future courts weigh cases involving everything from alleged script plagiarism to song theft. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Movie Studios Back Oracle in Supreme Court Fight Over Computer Code," 19 Feb. 2020 Sokolov had been embroiled in a bitter plagiarism controversy with a professor from Moscow, and was accused of assaulting a student who challenged him during one of his lectures. Author: Will Englund, Anchorage Daily News, "Russia’s greatest Napoleonic re-enactor found drunk in a river with the severed arms of his lover in his backpack," 11 Nov. 2019

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

Learn More about plagiarism

Time Traveler for plagiarism

Time Traveler

The first known use of plagiarism was in 1621

See more words from the same year

Statistics for plagiarism

Last Updated

16 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Plagiarism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for plagiarism


How to pronounce plagiarism (audio)

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 How to pronounce plagiarism (audio) \

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!