pilfer (_________), v. Also 6 pelfer, pylfer.
[app. a. OF. or AF. pelfre-r to pillage, rob (11th c. in Godef.): see pelf v.; but (from its late appearance) perh. an Eng. formation on pelfer, pilfer n.]
1. trans. To plunder, steal; spec. (in later use), to steal in small quantities, to filch, peculate.
1550 Bale Eng. Votaries ii. 28 He taught hym how to recouer agayne the possessyons and landes pelfered awaye by the kynges from hys archebyshopryck.
1577 J. Northbrooke Dicing (1843) 135 If during the time of their play, any thing be pilfered or stollen out of his house, hee shall haue no lawe at all for it.
1633 G. Herbert Temple, Submission iii, Pilfring what I once did give.
1756 Mitchell in Ellis Orig. Lett. Ser. ii. IV. 376 Happening to meet a waggon..he thought there might be something to pilfer.
18369 Dickens Sk. Boz, Black Veil, Old palings..mended with stakes pilfered from the neighbouring hedges.
1625 Bacon Ess., Greatness of Kingd. (Arb.) 473 The Commanders..wisht him, to set vpon them by Night; But hee answered, He would not pilfer the Victory.
1784 Cowper Task i. 131 And not a year but pilfers as he goes Some youthful grace that age would gladly keep.
18078 W. Irving Salmag. xix. (1860) 441 Old time..is a knave who..From the fairest of beauties will pilfer their youth.
b. To plunder or rob (a person or place). rare.
1838 Prescott Ferd. & Is. (1846) I. vii. 314 The Egyptians, whom it was a merit to deceive and pilfer.
1888 Bryce Amer. Commw. II. lxvii. 520 In some States the treasury was pilfered.
2. intr. or absol. To pillage, plunder; spec. (in later use), to commit petty theft.
a1548 Hall Chron., Hen. VIII 204 b, And when the Turkes saw the Cristen men styll pylfer (as the vsage of Souldiers is) they issued out of their holde.
a1618 Raleigh Rem. (1664) 90 As many of your Lordships as have pilfered from the Crown.
172631 Tindal Rapin’s Hist. Eng. xvii. (1743) II. 121 An Englishman being taken pilfering raised a quarrel.
1879 H. Spencer Data of Ethics xv. §102. 264 A servant who..pilfers, may have to suffer pain from being discharged.
'pilfered, 'pilfering ppl. adjs.;
also 'pilferingly adv.
1599 Shakes. Hen. V, i. ii. 142 To defend Our in-land from the pilfering Borderers.
1611 Cotgr., Subreptivement, pilferingly, by stealth, by false meanes.
1821 Clare Vill. Minstr. I. 73 Mistaking me for pilfering boy.
1878 B. Taylor Deukalion i. v, My pilfered strength shall of itself return.