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From pike +‎ -er. In some senses, it has been linked etymologically to the word pikey[1] as well as to Pike County in eastern Missouri [1]. In the latter instance the term originally denoted poor immigrants to California.



piker (plural pikers)

  1. (military, historical) A soldier armed with a pike, a pikeman.
    • 1974, Thomas Keneally, Blood Red, Sister Rose, page 82,
      Upstairs in a waiting room there were pikers whose tunics echoed Baudricourt′s gold lion shield painted up and down the rafters.
    • 2008, Cathal J. Nolan, Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650-1715: An Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization, page 363,
      By 1600, the ratio of pikers to gunmen was roughly 3:2. By mid-century the ratio was only 1:2, and by 1670 there was just one piker to every three gunmen in the French Army.
  2. One who bets or gambles only with small amounts of money.
    • 1899, Stephen Crane, chapter 1, in Twelve O'Clock:
      “[…] Them rich fellers, they don't make no bad breaks with their money. They watch it all th' time b'cause they know blame well there ain't hardly room fer their feet fer th' pikers an' tin-horns an' thimble-riggers what are layin' fer 'em. […]”
    • 1921, B. M. Bower, Cow Country, 2004, page 79,
      Bud swelled his chest and laid his hand on Jeff′s shoulder. “Just to show you I′m not a piker,” he cried recklessly, “I′ll bet you twenty-five dollars I can beat your Skeeter with my Smoky horse that I rode in here. Is it a go?”
    • 1999, Lael Morgan, Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, page 96,
      “Now, boys,” said Marie walking up and down the bar, once or twice lifting her skirt to her knees and laughing. “The last bid′s $5,000. Say, ain′t you pikers a-goin′ to bid higher than that for this?" And another flick of her skirts. “Here′s a nice plump chicken awaiting for a home.”
  3. A stingy person; a cheapskate.
    • 1916, Richard Harding Davis, The Man Who Could Not Lose, 2008, page 22,
      “And if you′ve got to be a piker,” said Dolly, “don′t be ashamed to be a piker. We′re not spending a hundred dollars because we can afford it, but because you dreamt a dream. You didn′t dream you were riding in parlor-cars! If you did, it′s time I woke you!”
      This day there was for them no box overlooking the finish, no club-house luncheon. With the other pikers, they sat in the free seats, with those who sat coatless and tucked their handkerchiefs inside their collars, and those who mopped their perspiring countenances with rice-paper and marked their cards with a hat-pin. Their lunch consisted of a massive ham sandwich with a top dressing of mustard.
    • 2000, Peter L. Bernstein, The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession, page 218,
      The golden nuggets in the stream at Sutter′s Mill in California made Croesus look like a piker, and Australia, the Klondike, and South Africa were yet to come.
    • 2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 604:
      Whatever else this cupcake might be up to, she was no piker. For everything the Q′s ordered, she added on more of the same.
  4. An amateur.
  5. (Australia, New Zealand, slang) One who refuses to go out with friends, or leaves a party early.
    Mate, don't be a piker! Come to Angie′s birthday party tonight!
  6. (Australia, New Zealand, slang) One who pikes (quits or backs out of a promise).
  7. (US, dated) A male freshman at Cornell University.


The 2000 film Boiler Room makes reference to "pikers" in the following excerpt:

So now you know what's possible, let me tell you what's required. You are required to work your fucking ass off at this firm. We want winners here, not pikers. A piker walks at the bell. A piker asks how much vacation time you get in the first year. Vacation time? People come to work at this firm for one reason: to become filthy rich; that's it. We're not here to make friends; we're not saving the fucking manatees here, guys. You want vacation time, go teach third grade at a public school. (wav, mp3)


  1. ^ Tony Thorne (1990) Bloomsbury Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, ↑ISBN


Norwegian Bokmål[edit]


piker m, f

  1. indefinite plural of pike