Pelf noun, money or wealth, especially if dishonestly acquired; lucre. Also a slang term for money.

Etymology: from the Old French pelfre (booty); related to the Latin pilāre (to despoil).


I came across this word today in The Times in an article about a British supermarket starting a pawn broking service, or more specifically a gold exchange service. I hadn’t encountered it before and thought at first that it was a typo. The context is:

Most of the other alchemists promising to turn gold into cupro-nickel are doing so at a rate so miserly that even a richly embossed heirloom would barely provide a widow’s pelf.
From: The Times, 3rd January 2011

This entry was posted in English, French, Language.

5 Responses to Pelf

  1. dreaminjosh says:

    Guess that’s where “pilfer” comes from. Never heard “pelf” before, though.

  2. Qcumber says:

    What can a “window’s pelf” be?

  3. Simon says:

    windows is a typo – it should be widow’s (doh!)

  4. Yenlit says:

    It’s probably related to ‘pillage’ as well?
    I’ve heard of ‘pelf’ before but have only encountered the word in older books and works of classic literature, I’m sure I first came across ‘pelf’ in Dante’s Inferno which I read when I was back in school in the late 80s.
    The word ‘lucre’ would be a far more commonly heard word especially in the set phrase ‘filthy lucre’ with the adjective adding emphasis in the sense of ill-gotten gains.
    In Welsh lucre (of the filthy variety) is expressed as the compound word ‘budrelw’ consisting of the words ‘budr’ (dirty, filth) and ‘elw’ (profit, gain) = budr+elw ‘filthy-profit’. It can also be turned in to a verb ‘budrelwa’ – to gain filthy lucre ie. profiteer.

  5. Andrew says:

    I immediately think it must be related to “pilfer”. You “pilfer” pelf, that is the results of your pilfering is pelf.


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