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booby-trap, v.

Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Formed within English, by conversion. Etymon: booby trap n.

 1. transitive. To surprise with or catch by means of a booby trap; to make the victim of a booby trap (in various senses of booby trap n.).

1885   Chatterbox 13 June 234/2   You wouldn't laugh if you had been cold-pigged, and booby-trapped, and apple-pie-bedded as I have.
1951   A. Bester Demolished Man (1978) xiv. 178   Someone tried to booby-trap me on the ship this morning. I beat it by an eyelash.
1966   Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times 17 May   Some newspapermen..booby-trapped him into talking out loud about matters that are not yet settled.
1970   Seymour (Indiana) Daily Tribune 30 Sept. 4/2   He sued the house owner and the courts awarded the burglar $30,000 because he had been booby trapped while breaking the law.
2011   Sydney Morning Herald (Nexis) 25 Feb. 39   Unsuspecting customers occasionally get booby-trapped by mop heads falling on them from on high.

1885—2011(Hide quotations)

 2. transitive.

 a. orig. Military. To plant a concealed explosive device on (an object), so that it detonates if it is disturbed; to plant one or more such devices in (a place or area). Also with with. Cf. booby trap n. 2b.

1943   Illustr. London News 1 May 483/3 (caption)    Sure enough, the door was booby-trapped! A German mine is fastened to the door, to explode directly it is opened!
1990   N. Hill Death grows on You (1992) i. 10   He's dead. Somebody boobytrapped his car while he was in the pub.
2006   Reader's Digest Apr. 140   As they retreated, the insurgents booby-trapped the cemetery with mines, rockets and IEDs.

1943—2006(Hide quotations)


 b. To modify or rig (an object, substance, etc.) secretly so as to cause surprise or discomfort when it is used, eaten, etc., esp. as a practical joke; to place a booby trap (booby trap n. 2a) in (a place). Also with with.

1960   Lubbock (Texas) Avalanch-Jrnl. 24 May 2 c/5   The tried booby-trapping the [golf] balls with mustard and pepper. But the cows seemed to relish them even more with a bit of spice added.
1963   Victoria (Texas) Advocate 25 Aug. 3/1   Some rascally Boy Scouts sneaked in and booby-trapped the girls latrine.
1972   Nevada State Jrnl. 25 Oct.   It is difficult to tell how such false reports of ‘booby-trapping’ Halloween candy, apples and so forth get started.
1991   J. Phillips You'll never eat Lunch in this Town Again 50   They booby-trapped it [sc. the store] with fishing wire so customers tripped over each other.

1960—1991(Hide quotations)


 3. transitive. fig. To cause (something) to have or include hidden difficulties or pitfalls, esp. in a deliberate attempt to trick the unwary (frequently in passive). Also: to cause unexpected difficulties to; to sabotage. Cf. booby trap n. 1.

1946   Yale Law Jrnl. 55 1054   The Court's..advisory jurisdiction..turned out to have been booby-trapped.
1999   Evening Standard (Nexis) 9 June 83   Booby-trapping their neighbours' once rampant-looking march to the semi-finals.
2014   Australian (Nexis) 23 Aug. 22   Is the NSW electricity network a dud investment because it has been booby trapped with bad enterprise bargaining agreements?

1946—2014(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2018).

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