I'm looking for a word that has the same meaning as "plagiarism" but in relation to plagiarized ideas only, i.e. not related to writing, art work, drawing etc.

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    I think the word you are looking for is "Plagiarism": "the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own". I'm not sure I understand - what is the meaning of stealing an idea? You cannot steal an idea out of a person's head - you need to understand it from their actions, speeches, or publications. And you need to use it somehow - just knowing the idea is probably not enough.
    – Kobi
    Jun 5, 2013 at 11:24
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    @Kobi the expression to steal someone's idea exists, and its meaning for native speakers is perfectly clear. And yes, you can steal someone's idea once it has been communicated either by word or on paper, and later pretend it was yours. Maybe in your mother tongue you have a different expression. I think it would be interesting to hear it!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 5, 2013 at 20:29
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    @Mari-LouA - I assume you are talking about "take credit"? But to my understanding, you can also take credit for an action, not just for an idea. For example, a shaman might take credit for a rainstorm. Sorry if I'm being difficult, maybe I don't understand something.
    – Kobi
    Jun 6, 2013 at 5:29
  • @Kobi I was answering your question:"I'm not sure I understand - what is the meaning of stealing an idea?" The expression to take credit (for something) includes having an original idea (not any idea and not for an idea) which was not yours in the first place.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 6, 2013 at 6:01
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    @Mari-LouA - Oh! I completely understand what is the meaning of stealing an idea, of course. I don't understand how you can steal just the idea, and not its effects. I'm not sure we can separate them, so I'm not sure there is an answer to the question. Maybe I am being too philosophical :). Thanks!
    – Kobi
    Jun 6, 2013 at 6:20

5 Answers 5


I don't believe there exists such a word, to describe someone who steals ideas, as it cannot be classified as a crime unlike plagiarism, which also functions as a verb.

I can think of only one expression: to take credit

Scenario: A tells B an idea on how to improve the company's productivity tenfold. Then B, behind A's back, goes to their boss and suggests the very same idea. The idea proves to be a success but it is B who takes the credit.

To steal: To present or use (someone else's words or ideas) as one's own.

To take the credit: to allow people to believe that one has done something praiseworthy, whether or not one has actually done it

I found this link about how "stealing" ideas in the business world can be perfectly legal but there are exceptions to the rule. http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/legal-term-stealing-business-idea-12733.html

  • Copyright Infringement
  • Trademark Infringement
  • Patent Infringement
  • Tortious Interference
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    The phrase intellectual property theft is often applied to immoral if not illegal 'borrowing' of ideas / plans ... Jun 5, 2013 at 8:51
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    @Edwin Ashworth: a phrase also used in this context (particularly in court) is there is no property in ideas. Jun 6, 2013 at 8:41
  • @TimLymington: Oh, yes I've heard of that expression. Which begs the question why do we have the concept "stealing somebody's idea"? If I have an original (but I suppose we could argue if anything is ever really original) idea, which later enjoys some form of success, can I claim:"I am the owner of that idea?" = The idea belongs to me. My common sense dictates that the idea has to be first documented, and proved unequivocally that nobody had proposed a similar concept before making that claim.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 6, 2013 at 8:58
  • Okay... secret upvoter. Cut it out, behave. I ain't that good. Thanks.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 5, 2014 at 16:56

A word that is used with some degree of specificity for this purpose is "crib."

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    But crib is not restricted to 'stealing' ideas. The most common usage of that that I'm aware of is cribbing answers in an exam, where you may be taking the answers from someone else's efforts or from a text book: it not 'ideas' you are copying, it written works.
    – TrevorD
    Jun 5, 2013 at 11:34
  • I doubt there is any word that is used exclusively for stealing ideas, but there is no question that "crib" is used commonly in that way. Look it up in Dictionary.com, and you'll see. Jun 6, 2013 at 7:01

I've heard "cooptation" or "co-opt" used this way.

"Rock 'n' roll music was largely co-opted from the blues."


Intellectual property would generally cover the notion of a 'protected' or 'owned' idea, in a strictly formal sense (patents on inventions, mechanical/chemical processes, innovative and unique ideas (such as the rules and mechanics used in the trading card game Magic: The Gathering, which other TCG's are prohibited from using), software, copyrighted creative works (such as the Star Wars or LOTR universes, which must be licensed to be included and expanded in other media, such as books or video games), etc.

In this case, you could use intellectual property theft, which is a term used by the FBI.

Source: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/piracy-ip-theft

For an informal notion, as in 'borrowing an idea used conceived of by someone else', I can't think such word to describe this other than appropriation (if the idea is not credited or attributed to it's originator), since an idea is immaterial and as such cannot be 'owned' the same way a material object, such as a publication or written text can be.


There is. I'm a Dancer/Bboy and in the HipHop and Bboy World we call them Biters or a Biter. Slang my Friend ;)

  • You call a word that has the same meaning as "plagiarism" but in relation to plagiarized ideas only biters?
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 14, 2014 at 9:00
  • @user88201 thanks - never heard that before, here is its urban dictionary entry - biter. So I suppose an equivalent expression would be "to bite" someone's idea. Aug 15, 2014 at 4:14

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