bur·​glary ˈbər-glə-rē How to pronounce burglary (audio)
 also  -gə-lə-rē,
 also  -gəl-rē
plural burglaries
: the crime of entering a structure (such as a house or commercial building) with the intent to commit a felony (such as theft)

Note: Most jurisdictions divide burglary into degrees or classes according to the seriousness of the crime. Various aggravating factors (such as whether the structure is a dwelling, the presence of people, and whether the person entering is armed with a deadly weapon or explosives) contribute to the seriousness of the crime.

burglarious adjective
burglariously adverb

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between burglarize and rob?

To burglarize is "to break into and enter of a building with the intent to commit a crime, often theft," whereas rob means " to take personal property from by violence or threat." Burglary need not entail violence or threat, and robbery need not entail breaking into a dwelling.

Is the verb form of burglary, burgle or burglarize?

The verb form of burglary can be either burglarize or burgle. "Burglarize," like many verb forms, is made by adding the suffix -ize, and this form is more common in American English. Burgle is a back-formation (a word formed by subtraction of a real or supposed affix from an already existing longer word), and is more common in British English. Both are widely accepted as correct.

Is burglarized a real word?

Yes, it is, and so is burgle. While both variants of the verb, burgle and burglarize, have been disparaged since they entered the language in the middle of the 19th century, both are real words, and both have come to be widely accepted.

Examples of burglary in a Sentence

There have been a number of burglaries in the neighborhood in recent months. He has been charged with attempted burglary.
Recent Examples on the Web Suspicious activity: Mallard Avenue Officers were sent to a home on Mallard Avenue to investigate a possible burglary at a vacant house. Robert Higgs, cleveland, 13 Sep. 2023 Young was charged with capital murder because Williams was killed during a burglary. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al, 11 Sep. 2023 Also taken during that particular burglary was an iPhone that Madden pawned the next day, the documents show. Dillon Mullan, Baltimore Sun, 7 Sep. 2023 The Atlanta Police Department arrested Delmore in April for burglary in the second degree and willful obstruction of a law enforcement officer, according to the sheriff's office. Teddy Grant, ABC News, 6 Sep. 2023 Surveillance footage from multiple locations, including from a burglary in McKinney for which Winters was arrested a day after he was released from jail and a day before the slaying, led police to identify him as a suspect in Tassew’s slaying. Lana Ferguson, Dallas News, 6 Sep. 2023 On Friday, Northeastern University police reported a burglary at a student apartment on St. Stephen Street. Collin Robisheaux, BostonGlobe.com, 3 Sep. 2023 Heller was one of two police officers who had gone to the complex to arrest Hampton on a felony warrant for burglary. Caleb Lunetta, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Aug. 2023 Officers in South Carolina initially responded to a report of a home burglary around 2 a.m. Saturday, the release said. Kelly McCleary, CNN, 31 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'burglary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1533, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of burglary was circa 1533

Dictionary Entries Near burglary

Cite this Entry

“Burglary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burglary. Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


bur·​glary ˈbər-glə-rē How to pronounce burglary (audio)
plural burglaries
: the act of breaking into a building (as a house) especially at night to steal

Legal Definition


bur·​glary ˈbər-glə-rē How to pronounce burglary (audio)
plural burglaries
: the act of breaking and entering an inhabited structure (as a house) especially at night with intent to commit a felony (as murder or larceny)
also : the act of entering or remaining unlawfully (as after closing to the public) in a building with intent to commit a crime (as a felony)

Note: The crime of burglary was originally defined under the common law to protect people, since there were other laws (as those defining larceny and trespass) that protected property. State laws have broadened the common-law crime. Entering at night is often no longer required and may be considered an aggravating factor. The building may be something other than a dwelling, such as a store or pharmacy. Some states (as Louisiana) have included vehicles under their burglary statute. There are degrees of burglary, and some of the usual aggravating factors are the presence of people and use of a deadly weapon.

burglarious adjective

Anglo-French burglarie, modification of Medieval Latin burgaria, from burgare to break into (a house)

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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