Yarg, matey! A cartoon pirate wears an eye patch, three-cornered hat, billowy shirt, and tall black boots. In real life, a pirate just boards ships and robs them of cargo, valuables, and money, often while wearing regular boring clothes.

Pirates have been around since humans have been shipping valuable goods by boat across oceans. You can also use pirate as a verb to describe what these robbers do. Today, in addition to traditional pirates, there are pirates who use digital creative material, like books, movies, games, and music, without paying for it. If you pirate a movie, you make a copy and sell it illegally. The Greek root of pirate is peirates, "one who attacks."

Definitions of pirate

n someone who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without having a commission from any sovereign nation

buccaneer, sea robber, sea rover
show 5 examples...
hide 5 examples...
Jean Laffite
French pirate who aided the United States in the War of 1812 and received an official pardon for his crimes (1780-1826)
Sir Henry Morgan
a Welsh buccaneer who raided Spanish colonies in the West Indies for the English (1635-1688)
Bartholomew Roberts
a Welsh pirate credited with having taken more than 400 ships (1682-1722)
Edward Thatch
an English pirate who operated in the Caribbean and off the Atlantic coast of North America (died in 1718)
Khayr ad-Din
Barbary pirate (died in 1546)
Barbary pirate, corsair
a pirate along the Barbary Coast
sea king
a Viking pirate chief
Type of:
despoiler, freebooter, looter, pillager, plunderer, raider, spoiler
someone who takes spoils or plunder (as in war)

n a ship that is manned by pirates

pirate ship
a swift pirate ship (often operating with official sanction)
Type of:
a vessel that carries passengers or freight

n someone who uses another person's words or ideas as if they were his own

literary pirate, plagiariser, plagiarist, plagiarizer
Type of:
stealer, thief
a criminal who takes property belonging to someone else with the intention of keeping it or selling it

v take arbitrarily or by force

commandeer, highjack, hijack
subject an aircraft to air piracy
take someone's car from him by force, usually with the intention of stealing it
Type of:
take or capture by force

v copy illegally; of published material

Type of:
take without the owner's consent

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.