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

Even without a buy-in price, that’s quite literally a pyramid scheme. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "This new would-be currency isn’t crypto — but is it for real?," 8 Nov. 2018 In one attack on Ms. Constand’s character, the defense contended that she had once been involved in a pyramid scheme designed to solicit money from others. Graham Bowley And Jon Hurdle, New York Times, "In Bill Cosby’s Case, Who’s the Con Artist? Both Sides Close by Pointing Fingers," 24 Apr. 2018 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

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

22 Nov 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

Rhyming Dictionary: 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).


a nest or breeding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


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!