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 He was previously convicted of the felonies of residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020, and robbery in 2023, all in L.A. County. Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2024 Marlon Wayans is speaking out about his startling recent home burglary. Jay Stahl, USA TODAY, 5 July 2024 The sheriff’s office said Goe has active warrants for burglary, grand theft of a firearm and domestic violence. Mike Stunson, Kansas City Star, 3 July 2024 James Miller, 41, was found guilty by a jury earlier this year of first-degree burglary, simple assault and destruction of property related to the September 2023 break-in. Muri Assunção, New York Daily News, 3 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for burglary 

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 16 Jul. 2024.

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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