From Old French pelfre, goods, especially such as are taken by force, plunder.

Hensleigh Wedgwood's Dictoinary of English Etymoogy, 1878

Rubbish; whence pelf, the philosophic term for money, often applied by cynics, who by no means think money the rubbish they assert. The metaphorical use of the word has entirely superseded the original. Ill-gotten gains are called pelfry

Charles Mackay's Lost Beauties of the English Language, 1894

Pelf (?), n. [OE. pelfir booty, OF. pelfre, akin to pelfrer to plunder, and perh. to E. pillage. Cf. Pilfer.]

Money; riches; lucre; gain; -- generally conveying the idea of something ill-gotten or worthless. It has no plural.

"Mucky pelf." Spenser. "Paltry pelf." Burke.

Can their pelf prosper, not got by valor or industry? Fuller.


© Webster 1913.

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