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 Both individuals orchestrated massive pyramid schemes, defrauding investors of billions. James Broughel, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 Herbalife eventually settled the suit for about two hundred million dollars and agreed to restructure its operations; in return, the F.T.C. stopped short of calling the company a pyramid scheme, and Herbalife stayed in business. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2024 Despite the decades of bad press and costly litigation that ensued, pyramid schemes—or, to be precise, the ostensibly law-abiding companies that happen to be dead ringers for pyramid schemes—appear to be an immovable pillar of the American economy. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2024 But unlike real life, the titular events of Boys Weekend take place on a high-tech island where rich libertarians spout babble about pyramid schemes — the latest version of which might just be the front for a Lovecraftian cult. Christian Holub,, 29 June 2023 Inception but with a pyramid scheme to source free energy. Huntley Woods and Christian Holub,, 17 Oct. 2023 Synanon and the like sit alongside stories of Theranos, crypto frauds, pyramid schemes and QAnon not just on streaming services, but also within the greater misinformation and disinformation diaspora. Margaret Lyons, New York Times, 22 Dec. 2023 Many people lost the bulk of their savings in pyramid schemes. Han Zhang, The New Yorker, 26 Dec. 2023 Bernie Madoff, whose pyramid scheme ensnared tens of billions of dollars, was sentenced to 125 years in prison. Byleo Schwartz, Fortune Crypto, 3 Oct. 2023

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

Word History

First Known Use

1949, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pyramid scheme was in 1949

Dictionary Entries Near pyramid scheme

Cite this Entry

“Pyramid scheme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2024.

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