\ ˈkrīm How to pronounce crime (audio) \

Essential Meaning of crime

1 : an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government Have you ever been convicted of a crime? = Were you ever found guilty of a crime? a very serious crime See More ExamplesShe paid dearly for her crimes. The punishment didn't fit the crime. [=the punishment was too mild/severe] evidence that helped them solve the crime a federal crime weapons used to commit crimes [=to do something illegal] I've committed no crime. = I haven't committed any crime. He was punished for a crime that he didn't commit. laws against hate crimes [=crimes that people commit because they hate the victim's race, religion, etc.] He thought he had committed a/the perfect crime. [=a crime that leaves no evidence]Hide
2 : activity that is against the law : illegal acts in general poverty and crime Hiring more police officers would help prevent/deter/reduce (the amount of) crime in our city. See More Examplesleaders who are tough on crime = leaders who work hard to fight crime He turned to a life of crime [=he became a criminal] as a teenager. He has links to organized crime. [=a group of professional criminals who work together as part of a powerful and secret organization] the recent increase in violent crimeHide
3 : an act that is foolish or wrong It's a crime [=sin] to let food go to waste. Being single is not a crime. There's no greater crime than forgetting your anniversary.

Full Definition of crime

1 : an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government especially : a gross violation of law
2 : a grave offense especially against morality
3 : criminal activity efforts to fight crime
4 : something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful It's a crime to waste good food.

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Other Words from crime

crimeless \ ˈkrīm-​ləs How to pronounce crime (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for crime

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

Examples of crime in a Sentence

She paid dearly for her crimes. evidence that helped them solve the crime He was punished for a crime that he didn't commit. the recent increase in violent crime Being single is not a crime. There's no greater crime than forgetting your anniversary.
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Recent Examples on the Web How Lightfoot addresses rising crime is a major issue for Chicago. Gregory Pratt,, 11 Sep. 2021 But there are also plenty of reports not tied to a specific crime. NBC News, 11 Sep. 2021 One pill was found on the floorboard of the vehicle and was sent to the crime lab for analysis. Bruce Geiselman, cleveland, 11 Sep. 2021 The court also ruled that evidence obtained using the body wire should not have been used in Allen’s trial because he should not have been interrogated about an uncharged crime that might implicate him in his ongoing murder trial. oregonlive, 10 Sep. 2021 Yet in their own way, The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys were also crime novels, devoted—much like Harlem Shuffle—to the odyssey of the fugitive. Jennifer Wilson, The Atlantic, 10 Sep. 2021 The body is barely cold when the wheels of the government’s cover-up machinery start turning, with an army of judicial and security officials united in their joint goal to gaslight and discredit Jurek, the crime’s only honest witness. Guy Lodge, Variety, 10 Sep. 2021 The brazen gunfire on a sunny afternoon brought business at the busy shopping center to a grinding halt — and raised more questions about safety in a neighborhood shaken by Atlanta’s ongoing crime wave. Henri Hollis, ajc, 10 Sep. 2021 The Chuckling Fingers, a Nancy-Drew-for-adults-style crime caper! Recommend me a book. Molly Young, Vulture, 10 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'crime.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of crime

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for crime

Middle English, "wrongdoing, sin," borrowed from Anglo-French, going back to Latin crīmin-, crīmen "accusation, charge, indictment, source of an accusation, misdeed, offense," probably from crī-, variant stem of cernere "to sift, discern, decide, determine" + -men, resultative noun suffix (probably originally "decision," then "judicial decision, indictment") — more at certain entry 1

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Learn More About crime

Time Traveler for crime

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The first known use of crime was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near crime

crim con



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Statistics for crime

Last Updated

14 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Crime.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for crime


\ ˈkrīm How to pronounce crime (audio) \

Kids Definition of crime

1 : the act of doing something forbidden by law or the failure to do an act required by law
2 : an act that is foolish or wrong It's a crime to waste food.


\ ˈkrīm How to pronounce crime (audio) \

Legal Definition of crime

1 : conduct that is prohibited and has a specific punishment (as incarceration or fine) prescribed by public law — compare delict, tort
2 : an offense against public law usually excluding a petty violation — see also felony, misdemeanor

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 : criminal activity

History and Etymology for crime

Middle French, from Latin crimen fault, accusation, crime

More from Merriam-Webster on crime

Nglish: Translation of crime for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of crime for Arabic Speakers


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