Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Slang A cautious gambler.
  • n. Slang A person regarded as petty or stingy.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A soldier armed with a pike, a pikeman.
  • n. One who bets or gambles only with small amounts of money.
  • n. A stingy person; a cheapskate.
  • n. An amateur.
  • n. One who refuses to go out with friends, or leaves a party early.
  • n. One who pikes (quits or backs out of a promise).

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A tramp; a vagrant.
  • n. One who makes small bets all over the lay-out. See pike, intransitive verb, 2.
  • n. On the stock-exchange, a professional speculator. See the extract.
  • n. One who uses a pike or pointed implement; specifically, in the United States, in ice-harvesting, one who thus controls the movement of cakes of ice.

Etymologies

Possibly from Piker, a poor migrant to California, after Pike County in eastern Missouri.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From pike +‎ -er. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I've always thought Stevie was a kind of piker, that is that she would say she was going to do a thing, and then from sheer laziness not do it.

    Turn About Eleanor

  • (_Trying to explain_) No, no -- a piker is a tin horn.

    The Ghost Breaker A Melodramatic Farce in Four Acts

  • It would have horrified him to be called a piker, for his instincts were really lavish, and the economical habit an achievement in which he took a resentful pride.

    The Sisters-In-Law

  • I do not begrudge him is wealth (except he is known as a piker to boot); I excoriate the both of them for their two-faced-ness.

    GraniteGrok

  • Or was he a "piker"; a little fellow, the victim of his own fears and vanities?

    100% : The Story of a Patriot

  • American is lavish, hates to stint, detests being a "piker", says, "Oh, what's the difference; it will all be the same in a hundred years," but kicks himself mentally afterwards.

    The Nervous Housewife

  • It is not run for them, nor for the "piker," nor for the needy clerk, but for the furious spenders.

    American Adventures A Second Trip 'Abroad at home'

  • He had not the courage either to give his guests the excellent native claret where they had formerly enjoyed imported champagne or to appear a "piker" in the eyes of the far from democratic family butler.

    The Sisters-In-Law

  • He later upped his donation to $400,000 so he wouldn't look like a "piker" and "to stay in the game" because he said that this year's "stunning" donations were well ahead of what they collected last year.

    Media Matters for America - Limbaugh Wire

  • Hoodathunk (sponsored by the FSM, Noodles for Freedom!) says: lux, grassley is a piker.

    Think Progress » Sen. Gregg Touts The CBO On Fox News, But Then Bashes It On CNN

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Comments

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  • Someone who fails to meet the expectations they themselves set (e.g. go out, drink, party).

    Is especially relevant whereby they fail to inform anyone of the failure to go/meet/etc or do so at the very last minute.

    see also piking

    May 10, 2009