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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web A few hours after his act of kindness, Jones was shot dead near his home in East Oakland, a crime police have yet to solve or find a motive behind. Justin Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 Dec. 2022 In the age of streaming TV, true crime shows are retelling compelling real-life stories, which includes Hulu's new show Welcome to Chippendales starring Kumail Nanjiani. Adrianna Freedman, Good Housekeeping, 4 Dec. 2022 Critics panned it, but audiences that have seen it (based on the Rotten Tomatoes scores) seem to have, by and large, enjoyed this adaptation of the novel Maria Beetle from one of Japan’s most popular crime writers, Kotaro Isaka. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 3 Dec. 2022 On the last day of May, the cargo ship MV Donald sailed into port in San Diego and was welcomed by Coast Guard officials who boarded it to investigate an alleged environmental crime involving the dumping of oil into the sea. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Dec. 2022 The genres include drama, comedy, surreal comedy, dark comedy, historical epic, war, fantasy, crime thriller, documentary and thriller. Martin Dale, Variety, 3 Dec. 2022 In each level, the player confronts one of the crime scenes, unearthing clues in its frozen tableau. Simon Parkin, The New Yorker, 2 Dec. 2022 At one of the four crime scenes, police found a 4-day-old baby next to his slain mother. Raja Razek, CNN, 1 Dec. 2022 In 2000, detectives were able to link the two unsolved murders to a then-unidentified suspect who had left behind trace DNA at both crime scenes. Laura Barcella, Peoplemag, 29 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near crime

Cite this Entry

“Crime.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


: the doing of an act forbidden by law or the failure to do an act required by law especially when serious
: criminal activity
the war on crime
: an act that is sinful, foolish, or disgraceful
it's a crime to waste good food

Legal Definition


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

: criminal activity

History and Etymology for crime

Middle French, from Latin crimen fault, accusation, crime

More from Merriam-Webster on crime

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