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From Latin pecūlātus (embezzlement), from past participle stem of pecūlor (to defraud the public), related to pecūlium (property in cattle, private property), from pecū (cattle, money).


  • IPA(key): /pɛkjʊˈleɪʃən/


peculation (countable and uncountable, plural peculations)

  1. (law, chiefly historical) The wrongful appropriation or embezzlement of shared or public property, usually by a person entrusted with the guardianship of that property.
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 7, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC:
      Sir Pitt Crawley (named after the great Commoner) was the son of Walpole Crawley, first Baronet, of the Tape and Sealing-Wax Office in the reign of George II., when he was impeached for peculation, as were a great number of other honest gentlemen of those days ...
    • 1885, Charlotte M. Yonge, chapter 20, in Nuttie's Father:
      Bulfinch, a solicitor at Redcastle, came to him with irrefragable proofs of gross peculation on the part of the bailiff.
    • 1989, Anthony Burgess, The Devil’s Mode:
      She considered herself engaged to be married to a Scotch propaganda officer who had been dismissed for peculation and gone home to sell cars.
    • 1990, Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy, chapter 2: “Politician”, page 42 (Guild Publishing; CN 2239):
      It was a feature of Athens’ democratic constitution that at the end of their year in office Athenian officials had to submit an account of their service, financial and otherwise, to public scrutiny. Ephialtes took the opportunity to bring charges of peculation against the outgoing archons who were about to enter the Areopagus and succeeded in having them removed from that council.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Embezzlement is the usual term used for this crime in modern laws.

Related terms[edit]