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?

The word purloin features in the title of a famous Edgar Allan Poe story in its past tense form: "The Purloined Letter" was included in Poe's 1845 Tales, and involves the search for a letter that a cabinet minister has stolen and is now using to blackmail the rightful owner, an unnamed woman of royalty. When Poe opted for ­purloin for his story, he was employing a term in use since the 15th century with the meaning "to put away; to inappropriately take or make use of." The word had earlier use, now obsolete, with the meaning "to set aside; to render inoperative or ineffectual," a meaning that links more clearly to the word's Anglo-French origin: purluigner means "to prolong, postpone, set aside," and comes from pur-, meaning "forward," and luin, loing, meaning "at a distance." Its ultimate root is Latin longus, long, meaning "long."

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

Example Sentences

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 Nearly two decades after a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz were purloined from a museum, a Minnesota man has been indicted on charges of stealing the iconic footwear. Shania Russell And Oliver Gettell, EW.com, 18 May 2023 Its most alarming prop is a coffee cup, accidentally purloined, and what passes for a mastermind is a housing bureaucracy that’s evil only in its inefficiency. Jesse Green, New York Times, 2 Mar. 2023 Nonetheless, the Shadow Brokers had purloined the capability to penetrate top-secret servers around the world. Tim Weiner, The New Republic, 27 Mar. 2023 Investigators say the hackers also purloined more than a million detailed call records from telecom companies. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, New York Times, 7 Mar. 2023 Digital technology has allowed such leakers as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning to purloin much vaster reams of data with significantly greater ease. Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, 6 June 2022 Our plan to purloin dogecoin to purchase purifiers pursuant to our planetary progression terminates. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, 7 May 2021 Once some viruses had evolved ways of writing and copying DNA, their hosts would have been able to purloin them in order to make back-up copies of their RNA molecules. The Economist, 20 Aug. 2020 Federal prosecutors now say China used the program to purloin sensitive technology. Penn Bullock, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2020 See More

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 8 Jun. 2023.

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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