criminal

1 of 2

adjective

crim·​i·​nal ˈkri-mə-nᵊl How to pronounce criminal (audio)
ˈkrim-nəl
1
: relating to, involving, or being a crime
criminal neglect
a criminal organization
2
: relating to crime or to the prosecution of suspects in a crime
criminal statistics
brought criminal action
the criminal justice system
3
: guilty of crime
also : of or befitting a criminal
a criminal mind
4
: disgraceful
It's criminal how unfunny this comedy is.Rick Bentley
criminally adverb

criminal

2 of 2

noun

1
: one who has committed a crime
2
: a person who has been convicted of a crime

Examples of criminal in a Sentence

Adjective a history of criminal behavior The captain of the wrecked boat was accused of criminal negligence. The company brought criminal charges against her. It's criminal that the government is doing nothing to stop the problem. Noun car thieves, pickpockets, burglars, and other criminals
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
He was shot dead by police later that day, and investigators determined that the actions of the officer who shot Sturgeon were not criminal. Michael Dorgan, Fox News, 22 Nov. 2023 In China, suspects in criminal cases are often detained for weeks or months prior to their formal arrest. Patrick Frater, Variety, 22 Nov. 2023 Justice Department officials have countered these claims by pointing to the extraordinary set of circumstances surrounding a criminal case into a subject who at the time was the son of a leading presidential candidate. CBS News, 22 Nov. 2023 The following year, after a BJP party official complained about a Netflix series showing a Muslim boy kissing a Hindu girl in a Hindu temple, police registered a criminal case against two Netflix executives, but no arrests were made. Anant Gupta, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2023 He was charged with second-degree assault and criminal mischief. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 20 Nov. 2023 The original story idea was pretty simple: the good guy exchanges faces with the bad guy to break up his criminal organization and save the world. Simon Abrams, The New Yorker, 19 Nov. 2023 The office of Rio’s public prosecutor opened a criminal investigation and said Benevides’ body was being examined. Diane Jeantet, Fortune, 19 Nov. 2023 Rebecca Rosenberg is a veteran journalist and book author with a focus on crime and criminal justice. Rebecca Rosenberg, Fox News, 10 Nov. 2023
Noun
Some note that the larger issue is the danger of being drugged, regardless of whether a criminal can unlock a person’s phone and steal their money. Matt Lavietes, NBC News, 20 Nov. 2023 The whole issue of believing is key to the movie, since Howery plays Santa Claus — or, perhaps, a petty criminal who’s pretending to be Santa Claus. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 19 Nov. 2023 The criminals gained access after faking a life-threatening emergency, the organization said. Evens Sanon and Emmanuel Igunza, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Nov. 2023 Regulators have issued the bank formal orders to be better at catching criminals who may be using its accounts or products, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Ben Eisen, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2023 Downtown Gulfport had been transformed into a post-apocalyptic battlefield for the movie about a despotic corporation that had taken over America’s prison system, replacing law enforcement with criminals. Stacy Perman, Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2023 Those foreigners, however, many of whom are likely government officials and not criminals or terrorists, frequently exchange calls and emails with people inside the United States, and those get collected as well. WIRED, 10 Nov. 2023 Of the Latino characters that did make it to the screen, they often were depicted as immigrants (24%), low-income (also 24%), violent criminals (46.2%) and angry or temperamental (40%). Jp Brammer, Los Angeles Times, 9 Nov. 2023 The criminal was a black bear estimated to weigh 300 to 400 pounds, WOFL-TV reported. CBS News, 8 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French criminal, borrowed from Latin crīminālis, from crīmin-, crīmen "indictment, crime" + -ālis -al entry 1

Noun

derivative of criminal entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of criminal was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near criminal

Cite this Entry

“Criminal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/criminal. Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition

criminal

1 of 2 adjective
crim·​i·​nal ˈkrim-ən-ᵊl How to pronounce criminal (audio)
ˈkrim-nəl
1
: being or guilty of a crime
a criminal act
2
: relating to crime or its punishment
criminal court
criminality
ˌkrim-ə-ˈnal-ət-ē
noun
criminally
ˈkrim-ən-ᵊl-ē
-nə-lē
adverb

criminal

2 of 2 noun
: a person who has committed a crime

Legal Definition

criminal

1 of 2 adjective
crim·​i·​nal ˈkri-mə-nəl How to pronounce criminal (audio)
1
: relating to, involving, or being a crime
criminal neglect
criminal conduct
2
: relating to crime or its prosecution
brought a criminal action
criminal code
compare civil sense 4, penal

criminal

2 of 2 noun
1
: one who has committed a crime
2
: a person who has been convicted of a crime

More from Merriam-Webster on criminal

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