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Do we say "confiscate" in everyday conversation?

For example,

A robber stole a car and "The police confiscated his car"

A student brought a knife to school and "The security man confiscated his knife"

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  • Yes. Why would you think not?
    – StephenS
    Nov 3, 2020 at 4:16
  • @StephenS, "confiscate" sounds formal, do we have a more idiomatic term?
    – Tom
    Nov 3, 2020 at 4:17
  • “took” or “took away”, maybe, but “confiscate” doesn’t sound excessively formal. As a teen, we would complain about teachers confiscating our phones during class.
    – StephenS
    Nov 3, 2020 at 4:22
  • seize is also used. Nov 4, 2020 at 4:11

2 Answers 2

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Confiscate is quite formal, but the correct word for a formal situation in which the police are taking something. That is a formal process and the specific word is better than the more general "take".

Confiscate is not very formal and it would be normal for a parent or teacher to confiscate a teenager's property as behaviour management.

You're grounded for a month, and I'm confiscating your phone for 24 hours.

Oh no, please don't take my phone!

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The verb impound is used when 'confiscating' a car. Lexico has

impound
VERB

1 Seize and take legal custody of (something, especially a vehicle, goods, or documents) because of an infringement of a law.
vehicles parked where they cause an obstruction will be impounded

The word 'confiscate' would not apply to a stolen car, because it does not belong to the thief. The seized vehicle is usually taken to a pound³.

1.1 A place where illegally parked motor vehicles removed by the police are kept until their owners pay a fine in order to reclaim them.


The word confiscate would be appropriate for the knife example, and I don't think it is particularly formal. Lexico has

confiscate
VERB

1 Take or seize (someone's property) with authority.
the guards confiscated his camera

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