Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who attacks ships while they are sailing in order to steal things from them

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The noun pirate was borrowed from French and Latin. It was first used in the 15th century.


Saturday was ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’, an annual opportunity to dress and talk like a pirate that has been running since the 1990s. Most of those who take part do so in the guise of the old-fashioned and largely fictional type of pirate, of course, rather than their less picturesque modern counterparts. The noun pirate has other meanings, including someone who makes illegal copies of copyrighted material such as books, videos or computer programs, and someone who broadcasts radio or TV programmes illegally. Both of these meanings are often used attributively, for example pirate videos or pirate radio station. In the first case the noun pirate can be replaced by pirated, which comes from the verb pirate meaning to make illegal copies of films, books, computer programs etc. Piracy refers to all these different kinds of illegal activity, while the adjective piratical means relating to or typical of a pirate.


“For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!”
(Gilbert and Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance)

The pirate he will sink you with a kiss
He’ll steal your heart and sail away.

(Joni Mitchell, The Pirate of Penance)

Related words

bandit, brigand, highwayman

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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