pur·​loin (ˌ)pər-ˈlȯin How to pronounce purloin (audio)
purloined; purloining; purloins

transitive verb

: to appropriate wrongfully and often by a breach of trust
purloiner noun

Did you know?

Picture a pie cooling on a windowsill. Peach, possibly, or perhaps plum—with perfect perfumed plumes puffing out from the holes poked in its crust. And then, suddenly, the pie is gone (as is our alliteration, at least for now). Those familiar with the classic pie-windowsill thievery of cartoons and comics know that the dessert has not been merely stolen, or even swiped, but purloined! Purloin comes from the Anglo-French verb purluigner, meaning “to prolong, postpone, or set aside.” English speakers of the 15th century borrowed purloin to use it in much the same way, applying it when someone sets something aside, concealing it so that it cannot be used by someone else. The sense meaning “to steal” developed not long after in the same century. The whiff of unseriousness often carried by purloin is not a constant; even today, it is common to read reports of people purloining large sums of money, not just delicious plum pies. But purloin does tend to carry the same particular piquancy as pinch and pilfer.

Choose the Right Synonym for purloin

steal, pilfer, filch, purloin mean to take from another without right or without detection.

steal may apply to any surreptitious taking of something and differs from the other terms by commonly applying to intangibles as well as material things.

steal jewels
stole a look at the gifts

pilfer implies stealing repeatedly in small amounts.

pilfered from his employer

filch adds a suggestion of snatching quickly and surreptitiously.

filched an apple from the tray

purloin stresses removing or carrying off for one's own use or purposes.

printed a purloined document

Examples of purloin in a Sentence

the studio stepped up security, fearing that someone might attempt to purloin a copy of the script for the show's season finale
Recent Examples on the Web As Bloomberg reports, Christie’s admits that some client information was taken in an attack earlier this month—which took the art-world titan’s website offline for 10 days—but says there’s no evidence of financial or transactional records having been purloined. David Meyer, Fortune, 28 May 2024 With its median value pitched at $50, that implies some 160 million packages purloined every year (other estimates are two or three times as high). Simon Seeger, Forbes, 26 Feb. 2024 Inside the walls of the warehouse, where the filmmakers are occasionally able to take us thanks to purloined cell phone footage, new workers are being led into overlit, socially distanced meeting rooms where they’re led through the most predictable onslaught of union-busting propaganda. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Sep. 2019 Everyone knows that data like credit cards and even Social Security numbers are routinely purloined. Steven Levy, WIRED, 12 Jan. 2024 The film actually purloins its main talents from the 1983 documentary Breakin’ ’n’ Enterin’ from director Topper Carew. Nicholas Bell, SPIN, 19 Dec. 2023 Cheap, second-hand, and purloined weapons comprised Hamas’ deadly makeshift arsenal that fueled a devastating, multi-pronged attack on Israel over the weekend. Isabelle Chapman, CNN, 13 Oct. 2023 The rightful inheritance that Purlie means to purloin by madcap deception is another promissory note whose power drives the action of the play. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 30 Sep. 2023 What the man purloined wasn’t just a pair of shoes but something like an emblem of identity. Amy X. Wang, New York Times, 26 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'purloin.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, to put away, misappropriate, from Anglo-French purluigner to prolong, postpone, set aside, from pur- forward + luin, loing at a distance, from Latin longe, from longus long — more at purchase entry 1, long

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of purloin was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near purloin

Cite this Entry

“Purloin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purloin. Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


pur·​loin (ˌ)pər-ˈlȯin How to pronounce purloin (audio)
purloiner noun

Legal Definition


transitive verb
: steal

More from Merriam-Webster on purloin

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