crim·​i·​nal | \ ˈkri-mə-nᵊl How to pronounce criminal (audio) , ˈkrim-nəl \

Definition of criminal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



Definition of criminal (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Other Words from criminal


criminally adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for criminal

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

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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 According to a criminal complaint obtained by Hawaii News Now, Primrose was allegedly issued a total of five U.S. passports under the identity of Bobby Fort. CBS News, 28 July 2022 More:The man convicted of shooting officers in Delafield has been charged with biting the bailiff For the incident while in jail, the criminal complaint detailed multiple altercations with other inmates and correctional officers. Drew Dawson, Journal Sentinel, 28 July 2022 They are being held on charges of identity theft, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, and making false statements in the application and use of a passport, a criminal complaint filed July 21 shows. Tim Stelloh, NBC News, 28 July 2022 The criminal complaint alleges Primrose and Morrison have lived as Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague for three decades. Chris Harris,, 28 July 2022 An 18-year-old from New Haven was arrested on a federal criminal complaint charging him with carjacking, according to federal officials. Hartford Courant, 23 July 2022 Officer Middleton is charged with second-degree murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter, according to a criminal complaint filed by the New York State attorney general’s office. New York Times, 22 July 2022 The federal criminal complaint alleged all of the money raised in the campaign was spent by March 2018, with large chunks spent by McClure and D’Amico on a recreational vehicle, a BMW and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey. Washington Post, 21 July 2022 Both men were killed on July 3, although authorities did not find Pitka’s body for several days, according to a criminal complaint filed with murder charges. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, 19 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His role as the quiet and respected criminal in Bangkok, Julian Thompson in Only God Forgives, is an underrated piece of that seven-year streak. Keith Nelson, Men's Health, 21 July 2022 Evil Lives Here surrounds horrific crime stories told from the perspective of the criminal's closest friends and family. Briana Richert,, 11 July 2022 Continue reading … ‘PERP-WALKED’ QUESTION - MSNBC panel wonders if Ginni Thomas should be treated like a criminal by Jan. 6 Committee. Fox News, 20 June 2022 The criminal then uses the same phrase to immediately drain the victim’s wallet. Stu Sjouwerman, Forbes, 27 Apr. 2022 Martin, for instance, was treated like a criminal by Zimmerman’s supporters, who complained that a year-old photo of the teenager was outdated and misleading. Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2022 President Joe Biden and other world leaders have denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal in recent months. Fox News, 3 July 2022 And more than eighty per cent believe that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, 1 May 2022 But whether the war crimes assessment means Putin himself is a war criminal will depend on an individual court of law, according to U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack. Conor Finnegan, ABC News, 23 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of criminal


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for criminal


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


derivative of criminal entry 1

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Time Traveler for criminal

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

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Dictionary Entries Near criminal

crime wave


criminal abortion

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Statistics for criminal

Last Updated

2 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Criminal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for criminal


crim·​i·​nal | \ ˈkri-mə-nᵊl How to pronounce criminal (audio) \

Kids Definition of criminal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : being or guilty of an act that is unlawful, foolish, or wrong
2 : relating to unlawful acts or their punishment criminal law

Other Words from criminal

criminally \ -​nᵊl-​ē \ adverb



Kids Definition of criminal (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who has committed an unlawful act


crim·​i·​nal | \ ˈkri-mə-nəl How to pronounce criminal (audio) \

Legal Definition of criminal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



Legal Definition of criminal (Entry 2 of 2)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on criminal

Nglish: Translation of criminal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of criminal for Arabic Speakers


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