pla·​gia·​rism | \ ˈplā-jə-ˌri-zəm also -jē-ə- How to pronounce plagiarism (audio) \

Definition of plagiarism

1 : an act or instance of plagiarizing
2 : something plagiarized

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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

But was this year’s text appropriation a plagiarism scandal? Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Democrats Are Winning the Battle of Ideas, But Could Still Lose the War," 10 June 2019 Enemies emerged at home, like the right-wing anti-Semite Paul Weyland, who held an anti-relativity rally at which Einstein was accused of plagiarism. Devin Powell, Discover Magazine, "How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Made Einstein the World's Most Famous Scientist," 24 May 2019 The consequences of Biden’s old 1987 plagiarism scandal are continuing to resonate more than 30 years later. NBC News, "Democratic rivals pile on Biden," 6 June 2019 Rumors were circulating that Biden had been accused of plagiarism while in law school. Author: Neena Satija, Anchorage Daily News, "Echoes of Biden’s 1987 plagiarism scandal continue to reverberate," 5 June 2019 And Fox contributor Monica Crowley withdrew from consideration for deputy national security advisor over a plagiarism scandal. Ryan Teague Beckwith, Time, "Why President Trump Keeps Hiring Cable TV Pundits," 16 Apr. 2018 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

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.

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First Known Use of plagiarism

1621, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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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 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

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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).


an act or instance of editing or removing

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