Definition of plunder in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Steal goods from (a place or person), typically using force and in a time of war or civil disorder.

    ‘looters moved into the disaster area to plunder stores’
    no object ‘the invaders were back and ready to plunder’
    • ‘Despite martial law, the troops had plundered many of the refugees' abandoned houses.’
    • ‘Meantime the Crusaders plundered the city of every scrap of wealth.’
    • ‘Lead by Sir Ensor, the clan has been ejected from their Scottish homelands and forced to plunder the villages on the moor to survive.’
    • ‘The soldiers plundered the village.’
    • ‘Over the next three months he systematically plundered the place, keeping the Dutch flag flying to lure more ships into harbour.’
    • ‘One old man, probably the leader of a village plundered by the bandits, stepped forward.’
    • ‘Farms were plundered and German settlements beleaguered.’
    • ‘They talked as they ate, discussing the journey and their comrades who were currently plundering another village a few miles away.’
    • ‘Believing there was no army in the field to oppose him, he grew careless and let large foraging parties plunder the region.’
    • ‘Cavaliers fought street by street and plundered the town.’
    • ‘He was plundered by George Rogers Clark in 1782 and had to flee for his life, perhaps losing nearly everything.’
    • ‘In the name of bringing civilisation and Christianity, knights burnt and plundered towns and cities across the Middle East and North Africa.’
    • ‘Pirates ran from house to house, looting and plundering as they went.’
    • ‘Thirteen months earlier he had threatened the York City Art Gallery's terrified attendants at gunpoint and plundered the city of some of its most precious treasures.’
    • ‘If they are going to plunder us, they should at least be denied the luxury of believing that it is for our own good.’
    • ‘For thousands of years you violated and plundered the Earth by greed, for power and money.’
    • ‘Greeks had plundered Turkish towns, and now they were repaid by being pushed out of Turkey altogether.’
    • ‘On entering the town the Mongols plundered the town and massacred its citizens.’
    • ‘His left-wing militias also plundered small farmers in the nation's countryside and hinterland provinces.’
    • ‘Not only are the houses shoddily built with some of the walls on the brink of collapsing, but the unoccupied houses are being plundered by vandals who steal the doors, windows and other fittings.’
    • ‘In 1585 he travelled to the West Indies and the coast of Florida where he sacked and plundered Spanish cities.’
    pillage, loot, rob, raid, ransack, strip, fleece, ravage, lay waste, devastate, maraud, sack, rape
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    1. 1.1 Steal (goods), typically using force and in a time of disorder.
      • ‘British firms were able to plunder raw materials and labour, make profitable investments and sell their products.’
      • ‘It's always going to be the case in Scotland that players are looking to move on, or other clubs are looking to come in and plunder your better players.’
      • ‘The man said he went into a village Chinese troops had retreated from and plundered goods and money.’
      • ‘When it was over, the victors triumphantly plundered the goods of their fallen foe, collecting the weapons and trinkets from the bodies of the fallen.’
      • ‘He and four staff members were locked in the vault as the gang plundered more than £200,000.’
      • ‘However, the early Western commerce with China was mainly directed to the opium trade, which not only plundered China's raw materials and local products but ruined the health of Chinese.’
      • ‘A trusted member of an angling club, who systematically plundered £13,000 from funds he was supposed to look after, has been jailed for six months.’
      • ‘They are all local tribes people and former poachers - so no one knows better than them the motivation and methods of those who plunder the sanctuary for animals and plants.’
      • ‘The goods were plundered from European lodges.’
      • ‘He was executed by the Nazis for stealing from the camp warehouse and plundering goods meant for Berlin.’
      • ‘Enterprising traders sailed its coast for centuries, and colonizers plundered its wealth, both material and human.’
      • ‘Members of the 19 families whose dead relatives' estates were plundered by a disgraced solicitor have greeted his imprisonment with quiet satisfaction.’
      • ‘For Saint Augustine, the monk who sought knowledge in the Greek or Latin authors was no better than the Israelite who plundered Egyptian treasures in order to build the tabernacle of God.’
      • ‘"They have been stealing and plundering our wealth and resources for more than 35 years now.’
      • ‘Openly riding their horses in gangs of several dozen, at night they set fires, brandish [their] weapons, and plunder residents' goods.’
      • ‘A ‘shopaholic’ headmistress collapsed after being found guilty of living the high life with up to £500,000 plundered from her school.’
      steal, take illegally, purloin, seize, thieve, rob, pillage, carry off
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    2. 1.2 Take material from (artistic or academic work) for one's own purposes.
      ‘we shall plunder related sciences to assist our research’
      • ‘The next time you decide to plunder the good ideas - and stars - from someone else's movie, try not to add any lousy ideas of your own.’
      • ‘And the masters themselves invariably plundered from successful works that had come before.’
      • ‘The best television generally plunders from books and plays and the arts that existed before.’
      • ‘It was, however, a highly popular book throughout the 17th century, and its plot material was frequently plundered by dramatists.’
      • ‘Composers approached him with reverential caution, rarely plundering the text direct.’
      • ‘Happily, designers continue to plunder the her archive with a riot of florals that look more flirty than frumpy.’
      • ‘All the while we, watch as others plunder our science.’
      • ‘My other debts are to the authors of books from which I have freely plundered their best (I hope) ideas.’
      • ‘His artistic legacy was immense and it is hard to appreciate his originality because his inventions have been plundered by generations of artists.’
      • ‘When asked specifically about his songwriting inspiration, Partridge admits that as time goes by, it gets tougher to come up with new material to plunder.’
      • ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a popular novel must be plundered for source material for other media.’
      • ‘It's so good, in fact, that companies are actually plundering Wright's style in advertisements.’


  • 1The violent and dishonest acquisition of property.

    ‘the farmers suffered the inhumanity and indignities of pillage and plunder’
    • ‘Sturdy and well-finished, these ships were able to sail great distances, not just for pillage and plunder but also to seek new territories, markets and economic gains for the homeland.’
    • ‘He is now facing investigation in at least six criminal cases including plunder.’
    • ‘He is facing a string of charges ranging from perjury to economic plunder, a crime that carries the death penalty or life in prison.’
    • ‘The six-day exhibition traces the ugly shades of terrorism unleashed in the Valley and the resulting plunder, loot, arson and rape that has accompanied it all these years.’
    • ‘The invasion was accompanied by the slaughter of thousands of Moslems and Jews, and by the sacking and plunder of their property, which caused poverty and hunger.’
    • ‘During the Victorian period, successive imperialist wars of plunder were eulogised by the military and political elite as a worthy social challenge and likened to a game played between great powers.’
    • ‘As we said elsewhere, this readiness to accept and embrace corruption and plunder of the public purse goes deep.’
    • ‘Yet still the internet and telephone bookmaking pirates get away with plunder from their very lucrative business.’
    • ‘It is no secret that almost every department has become synonymous to outright corruption and plunder of public exchequer.’
    • ‘He is now being investigated for a string of criminal complaints including plunder.’
    • ‘He is being tried for the nonbailable charge of economic plunder as well as perjury, illegal use of an alias and graft.’
    • ‘There is a lot of pillage and plunder going on at some of our rural beaches, and we have to congratulate the officers of the Ministry of Fisheries on their fine work in monitoring our fisheries.’
    • ‘An ardent student of the country, he offers depictions of India's cultural achievement that reinforce his horror before a destructive system of plunder, extortion, and corruption.’
    • ‘The former president will also be tried in a multi-million dollar case of plunder, a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death.’
    • ‘He is being investigated for allegations including perjury and plunder.’
    • ‘There were just crowds in a frenzy of arson and plunder, stripping buildings and torching a market.’
    • ‘Three weeks of rapine, slaughter and plunder were sufficient to anger the king and the emperor, who entered into negotiations with each other.’
    • ‘He shows how desertions, profiteering, hoarding, and plunder were widespread.’
    • ‘After a time of plunder and raids, the Vikings began to settle in England and trade, eventually ruling the Danelaw from the late 9th century.’
    • ‘He is being investigated in connection with a series of criminal charges ranging from bribery to economic plunder.’
    looting, pillaging, plundering, robbery, robbing, raiding, ransacking, devastation, depredation, laying waste, sacking, marauding
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    1. 1.1 Property acquired illegally and violently.
      ‘the army sacked the city and carried off huge quantities of plunder’
      • ‘The plunder consisted of golden coins, jewels, bolts of cloth, and other valuables that would be found aboard a merchant ship returning home from a successful trading venture.’
      • ‘The thieves marched almost in step, pleased with their plunder, unhurried, as if in a pageant.’
      • ‘Babur may have been descended from brutal conquerors, but he was not a barbarian bent on loot and plunder.’
      • ‘The plunder included its people, young men and women, sold into slavery to develop new nations of the West.’
      • ‘The church is not built on layer upon layer of cultural and intellectual plunder.’
      • ‘We suggested to set the houses on fire to get them out but he was afraid to lose plunder.’
      • ‘However, he or the proposed National Security Council would act only if the prime minister was not functioning well and the country returned to the pre-1999 days of loot and plunder by people in power.’
      • ‘Some were raids for plunder: a fleet of ships anywhere from three or four up to several score would attack a region specifically to gain loot.’
      • ‘Any plunder was confiscated.’
      booty, loot, stolen goods, spoils, prizes, ill-gotten gains, haul, takings, pickings
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Mid 17th century: from German plündern, literally ‘rob of household goods’, from Middle High German plunder ‘household effects’. Early use of the verb was with reference to the Thirty Years War (reflecting German usage); on the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, the word and activity were associated with the forces under Prince Rupert.