Pilfer: How to Play and Win

pilfer a merriam-webster game

Introducing Pilfer

We’re very pleased to offer Pilfer, our new game that involves making and taking words. It’s a bit like hand-to-hand combat … but with words! And friendly!

Play Pilfer against real people by joining a public game or inviting friends to a private game. You can also play against the computer.

How to Play

Score points by using the letter tiles to create words. After all 60 letter tiles have appeared, the player with the most points wins. You can score points in two ways: making words and stealing words.

Making Words

Make words, three-letters or longer, from the letter tiles that drop into play. For example, using the tiles AET you could play either ATE, EAT, or TEA. You would get 3 points for any of these words (one point for each letter).

Stealing Words

Steal a word that’s already been created, by adding at least one letter tile. For example, if someone has made EAT, you can add an M and rearrange the letters to spell TEAM (or TAME). When you enter TEAM, your opponent loses their 3 pts from EAT and you earn 4 pts for TEAM. (Note: You can add to your own words too – e.g. if you made EAT, you can turn it into TEAM, boosting your 3pt word into a 4pt word, and making it harder for someone else to steal.)

To steal a word, you can rearrange the letters, but you don’t have to. For example, you could steal EAT by adding M to the beginning to make MEAT.


You want to create words and steal words quickly, of course, but two things to keep in mind: Stealing words is generally more efficient than making words. For example, if you turn your opponent’s EAT into TEAM (or MEAT or TAME), that’s a seven-point swing in score: You gain four points for TEAM and your opponent loses their three points from you stealing EAT. By comparison, if you made TEAM from scratch, you would have scored four points, but your opponent would not have lost any.

Aim to create words that are harder for your opponents to steal. For example, if you’ve already made EAT and you turn it into TEAM, you earn only one additional point, but you’ve made EAT harder for someone to steal.

Are short words worth making? It depends! Most short words (like EAT) can be easy for people to steal, but it can be useful to make them if doing so prevents your opponent from using those letters to steal one of your words.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need to select the word I want to steal? Nope – just type and enter it, and the system will know which word you’re stealing.
  • Can I steal a word by adding an S to the end of it? No – You can't steal a word (your own or someone else's) just by adding an S to the end. However, you can add other letters to the end of a word (TILE → TILED, or BAKE → BAKER.) Also, if you can use the letters to spell a different word you can add an S to that. For instance, you can’t add an S to TEAR to make TEARS, but you can take TEAR and turn it into RATES.
  • Can a game end in a tie? No – there’s a tiebreaker rule: When two players finish with the same score, the winner is the player who made the longest word first.