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From Middle English pelf, pelfe, from Anglo-Norman pelf, Old French pelfre (booty, stolen goods), of unknown origin. Compare pilfer.


  • IPA(key): /pɛlf/
  • (file)


pelf (uncountable)

  1. Money; riches; gain, especially when dishonestly acquired (compare lucre).
    • 1869, Bholanauth Chunder, The Travels of a Hindoo to Various Parts of Bengal and Upper India:
      The inlaid characters in diamond, and other precious stones, have been all abstracted away by the pelf-loving Jaut and Mahratta—leaving the walls defaced with the hollow marks of the chisel.
    • 1906, Frederick Tatham, “Life of Blake”, in Archibald George Blomefield Russell, editor, The Letters of William Blake:
      But, sighing after his fancies and visionary pursuits, he rebelled and fled fifty miles away for refuge from the lace caps and powdered wigs of his priggish sitters, and resumed his quaint dreams and immeasurable phantasies, never more to forsake them for pelf and portraiture.
    • 1934, Dale Wimbrow, The Guy in the Glass:
      When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf, and the world makes you King for a day, / Then go to the mirror and look at yourself, and see what that guy has to say.
    • 1968 October, Nicholas von Hoffman, “The Class of '43 Is Puzzled”, in The Atlantic:
      Some of the rich classmates were keeping their pelf to themselves.
    • 1987 April 27, Ford S. Worthy, “You're Probably Working Too Hard”, in Fortune:
      In advertising, show business, and journalism, people work themselves to the nub for glitz and glory more than for pelf.
    • 1997 July 20, Harriet P. Gross, “Author roots her stories in Vietnam War”, in Dallas Morning News:
      She writes about those she might have known first-hand: teenage girls cowering in bunkers . . . friends making promises they can never keep . . . rich folk fattened on wartime pelf, poor folk surviving by wit alone.
    • 2000 February 20, Nick Cohen, “Without prejudice”, in The Observer:
      [] a master manipulator who will twist and dodge around the clock to keep the privileges of power and pelf.


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