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

Comments

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  • "When one investigator in New York started to negotiate the terms of leaving a bar with a woman late at night, she demanded that he buy her a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey. And while he was it it, could he come with her to the butcher to pay an outstanding bill? (It never seems to occur to the investigators that the women they write up might have recognized them for what they were, and decided to mess around.)

    'I told her all the butcher shops were closed now,' he wrote, 'and I didn't care to travel around from store to store, she got sore at me and called me a piker and told me to beat it.'"
    Labor of Love by Moira Weigel, p 22

    August 31, 2016

  • 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