Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun \ˈkrīm\

Simple Definition of crime

  • : an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government

  • : activity that is against the law : illegal acts in general

  • : an act that is foolish or wrong

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of crime

  1. 1 :  an act or the commission of an act that is forbidden or the omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law; especially :  a gross violation of law

  2. 2 :  a grave offense especially against morality

  3. 3 :  criminal activity <efforts to fight crime>

  4. 4 :  something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful <it's a crime to waste good food>

crimeless play \-ləs\ adjective

Examples of crime in a sentence

  1. She paid dearly for her crimes.

  2. evidence that helped them solve the crime

  3. He was punished for a crime that he didn't commit.

  4. the recent increase in violent crime

  5. Being single is not a crime.

  6. There's no greater crime than forgetting your anniversary.

Origin of crime

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin crimen accusation, reproach, crime; probably akin to Latin cernere to sift, determine

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of crime

offense, resentment, umbrage, pique, dudgeon, huff mean an emotional response to or an emotional state resulting from a slight or indignity. offense implies hurt displeasure <takes deep offense at racial slurs>. resentment suggests lasting indignation or ill will <harbored a lifelong resentment of his brother>. umbrage may suggest hurt pride, resentment, or suspicion of another's motives <took umbrage at the offer of advice>. pique applies to a transient feeling of wounded vanity <in a pique I foolishly declined the invitation>. dudgeon suggests an angry fit of indignation <stormed out of the meeting in high dudgeon>. huff implies a peevish short-lived spell of anger usually at a petty cause <in a huff he slammed the door>.

offense, sin, vice, crime, scandal mean a transgression of law. offense applies to the infraction of any law, rule, or code <at that school no offense went unpunished>. sin implies an offense against moral or religious law <the sin of blasphemy>. vice applies to a habit or practice that degrades or corrupts <regarded gambling as a vice>. crime implies a serious offense punishable by the law of the state <the crime of murder>. scandal applies to an offense that outrages the public conscience <a career ruined by a sex scandal>.

Rhymes with crime

CRIME Defined for Kids


noun \ˈkrīm\

Definition of crime for Students

  1. 1 :  the act of doing something forbidden by law or the failure to do an act required by law

  2. 2 :  an act that is foolish or wrong <It's a crime to waste food.>

Law Dictionary


noun \ˈkrīm\

Legal Definition of crime

  1. 1 :  conduct that is prohibited and has a specific punishment (as incarceration or fine) prescribed by public law — compare delict, tort

  2. 2 :  an offense against public law usually excluding a petty violation — see also felony, misdemeanor Editor's note: Crimes in the common-law tradition were originally defined primarily by judicial decision. For the most part, common-law crimes are now codified. There is a general principle “nullum crimen sine lege,” that there can be no crime without a law. A crime generally consists of both conduct, known as the actus reus, and a concurrent state of mind, known as the mens rea.

  3. 3 :  criminal activity

Origin of crime

Middle French, from Latin crimen fault, accusation, crime

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up crime? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


tending to dismiss important matters

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

soothe disapprove perplex reduce
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.