Dictionary.com lists plagiarist as the noun form of plagiarism and lists plagiarizer as the noun form of plagiarize. I do not see the distinction of the separate entries and expected both words to be listed as noun forms.

  • What leads you to suspect they might mean something different?
    – tchrist
    Apr 3 '13 at 1:13
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    In AmE, we use, for example, piano player to describe someone who earns a living playing the piano, maybe with a band or in the lobby of a hotel or other places where background music is desired. The label pianist, however, is usually reserved for people who play classical music on the concert circuit, eg, Arthur Rubinstein & Van Cliburn. The term is also used for famous jazz and popular piano players and composers like Duke Ellington, Billy Joel, & Stevie Wonder. A forger is always a forger & never a forgist, no matter how skilled. A copyist, not a copier, makes copies.
    – user21497
    Apr 3 '13 at 2:10
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    @BillFranke My copier makes copies.
    – MetaEd
    Apr 3 '13 at 3:04
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    @MετάEd: But it's a machine, not a person. Different entities, different usage rules. Context is almost all. :-)
    – user21497
    Apr 3 '13 at 3:23
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    There indeed was a copyist appointed to run the copier, seriously. (Perhaps on the lines of typist-typewriter). google.com/search?as_qdr=all&q=copyist&tbs=dfn:1
    – Kris
    Apr 3 '13 at 5:07

There are many1 -ist/-izer pairs in which one could imagine some difference in meaning between them, such as in (perhaps) at least some of these pairs:

  • agonist, agonizer
  • Americanist, Americanizer
  • antagonist, antagonizer
  • apologist, apologizer
  • baptist, baptizer
  • botanist, botanizer
  • dramatist, dramatizer
  • economist, economizer
  • generalist, generalizer
  • hypnotist, hypnotizer
  • Ionist, ionizer
  • journalist, journalizer
  • localist, localizer
  • maximist, maximizer
  • minimist, minimizer
  • modernist, modernizer
  • monopolist, monopolizer
  • moralist, moralizer
  • naturalist, naturalizer
  • novelist, novelizer
  • optimist, optimizer
  • pluralist, pluralizer
  • psychologist, psychologizer
  • realist, realizer
  • secularist, secularizer
  • terrorist, terrorizer
  • theorist, theorizer

However, it turns out that in this particular case, the OED defines both to be exactly the same:

plagiarizer = plagiarist

1. There being something like 154 such -ist/-izer pairs in the OED. This is a little under half the total number of -izer words (323), but only a very small portion of the total number of -ist words therein attested (3,774).

  • Okay, T. I owe you an upvote. Apr 3 '13 at 1:41
  • I don't know how many other pairs I'd distinguish, but I assume everyone would accept economist, economizer as having two very different and distinct meanings. Apr 3 '13 at 5:16
  • Very interesting! Apr 4 '13 at 5:04

Doing it once makes one a plagiarizer. Doing it as a profession makes one a plagiarist.

Plagiarizer may generally be used in the context of or with reference to a specific incident while plagiarist is possible better suited in the context of regular practice.

[emphasis mine:]

In that the book had not yet appeared in print, immediate action was taken by APA to “go after” the plagiarizer and, of course, to pull the three stolen biographies from the volume.
(Handbook of Ethics in Quantitative Methodology, p.489)


Plagiarists have long posed a threat to authors. At the same time, plagiarists add value to the very same process they otherwise threaten, insofar as the real or imagined menace …
(Plagiarism: alchemy and remedy in higher education, p.49)

Usage may vary.

  • 1
    I think that's a spurious distinction. Not being overly familiar with its use, I just typed plagiarizer in to Google Books. The second entry in the list says Chronic plagiarizers often lack a secure sense of personal identity, which hardly fits with only doing it once. Apr 3 '13 at 5:21
  • @FumbleFingers You're right, and you're wrong! :) I too noticed the entry with Chronic plagiarizers, so yes it's there. However, we apply the adjective chronic to say that something is 'Persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.' So you are wrong in asserting plagiarizer 'hardly fits with only doing it once.' Else why would the adjective be needed? It proves the noun per se is non-recurrent.
    – Kris
    Apr 3 '13 at 8:13
  • It may be incidental that you used an example that proves the contrary. :)
    – Kris
    Apr 3 '13 at 8:14
  • I guess if you start from the position that your distinction is generally known and made, you can make a case for that one particular instance being supportive. But it can just as easily be seen as detractive. FWIW, habitual plagiarist occurs less than 25 times as often as habitual plagiarizer, whereas the single word plagiarist is over 30 times more common than plagiarizer. The sample sizes involving habitual are too small to be definitive, but taken at face value those numbers certainly undermine your distinction. Apr 3 '13 at 16:33
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    @Kris: In the final analysis, there's obviously no "objective" standard by which we can ascertain the meaning of a word - to paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, words mean what people think they mean. If you think this plagiarist/plagiariser distinction exists, then you can observe it in your own usages. Maybe sometimes the difference will be significant, and maybe some people will think the same as you, so they'll understand exactly what you mean. But I wouldn't, unless you explicitly pointed it out to me at the time. And I doubt I'd remember it for the next time it came up (if ever! :) Apr 4 '13 at 15:03

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