Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Embezzle


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is embezzle. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

To embezzle is to steal something (usually money) that you have been entrusted with.

// The company’s senior accounts manager embezzled thousands of dollars from her employer.

EMBEZZLE in Context

“In the courtroom, [courthouse dog] Ollie stands with those testifying as they take the oath to tell the truth and curls up at their feet behind the witness stand…. He comforted a woman in her 90s who had to testify against her son. He was accused of forging documents and embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from her over a long time.” — Diane Bell, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Apr. 2023

Did You Know?

English is full of verbs that mean “to steal” (such as pilferrobswipeplunderfilch, and thieve). But when it comes to stealing property (and in this context, money is a kind of property) that has been entrusted to you, embezzle wins the prize. The word most often refers to theft of company or government funds that one has charge of, and embezzlement is therefore a hallmark of white-collar crime—that is, crime committed by so-called “white-collar” workers. In the 15th century, around the time that embezzlement entered English (the ultimate root is Anglo-French besiller “to steal, plunder”), it would have also been possible to say that such plunderers “bezzled” company cash, but bezzle is now considered obsolete.

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