pyramid scheme


Definition of pyramid scheme 

: a usually illegal operation in which participants pay to join and profit mainly from payments made by subsequent participants

Examples of pyramid scheme in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Tens of millions of people are ensnared in these pyramid schemes that use cult-like techniques to brainwash their targets and bilk them out of their money. The Economist, "A multi-level scourgePyramid schemes cause huge social harm in China," 3 Feb. 2018 Both are apparently classic pyramid schemes, with new investors’ money going to pay off older investors. David Meyer, Fortune, "Vietnam Is Outraged Over a $658 Million Cryptocurrency Scam," 12 Apr. 2018 According to the criminal complaint against Raniere, his original company, Executive Success Programs, is a good old-fashioned pyramid scheme. Matthew Martinez, miamiherald, "Who is Allison Mack, and what is her connection to Nxivm, the alleged sex cult? | Miami Herald," 21 Apr. 2018 Short on money, Gill plots against the pyramid scheme that fleeced her. Hal Boedeker,, "'Central Florida' TV series comes from YouTube," 3 July 2018 Last year, as the price gains of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether were generating daily headlines, some fund managers went on the attack, calling the sector a pyramid scheme. Omid Malekan, New York Times, "If Fund Managers Back Bitcoin," 27 June 2018 Past vacant lots and sidewalks that later became camps of homeless people who had been evicted due to pyramid scheme-like development policies and trickle-down solutions. Boots Riley, HWD, "Sorry to Bother You Director Boots Riley Takes a Ride Through Oakland’s Changing Landscape," 2 July 2018 Leggings company LuLaRoe, which reached a stunning $2.3 billion in sales last year, is now facing more than a dozen lawsuits by sales reps who claim it’s a pyramid scheme. Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle, "Selling bras like Tupperware: Ruby Ribbon reshapes direct sales," 8 June 2018 That’s Interesting Companies call it multilevel marketing while critics call it a pyramid scheme. Aubrey Nagle,, "Parents silenced in family court, LOVE sculpture artist dies | Morning Newsletter," 22 May 2018

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

1949, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pyramid scheme

Share pyramid scheme

Statistics for pyramid scheme

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pyramid scheme

The first known use of pyramid scheme was in 1949

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pyramid scheme

pyramid scheme


English Language Learners Definition of pyramid scheme

: a dishonest and usually illegal business in which many people are persuaded to invest their money and the money of later investors is used to pay the people who invested first

More from Merriam-Webster on pyramid scheme

See words that rhyme with pyramid scheme

Comments on pyramid scheme

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


to express warning or disapproval

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!