crim·​i·​nal·​i·​ty | \ ˌkri-mə-ˈna-lə-tē How to pronounce criminality (audio) \

Definition of criminality

1 : the quality or state of being criminal
2 : criminal activity urban criminality

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for criminality


crime, lawbreaking, lawlessness

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of criminality in a Sentence

criminality and physical violence often go hand in hand

Recent Examples on the Web

The play is built on the axis of a nagging question having to do with both belief in an unseen God and suspicion of criminality: At what point do intuition and observed patterns form a reasonable assumption? Peter Marks, Washington Post, "‘Doubt’ covered child abuse in the church a decade and a half ago. It’s still relevant.," 10 Sep. 2019 Simply being in the U.S. without authorization is a civil offense — and people who are found to be in the U.S. without papers can be deported — but section 1325 adds a layer of criminality. NBC News, "Fact check: Is decriminalizing border crossings the only way to stop family separations?," 1 Aug. 2019 The rise of drug use in Basra marks only the latest phase of the region’s long slide into criminality that began in earnest after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein. New York Times, "Iraq Faces a New Adversary: Crystal Meth," 14 Sep. 2019 Chaos that could create opportunities for—and plausible deniability about—more serious fraud and criminality. Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "The Simple, Odious Reason Mitch McConnell Opposes Election Integrity," 31 July 2019 The Sopranos continually punished its characters—and its viewers—for fetishizing the spoils of criminality, bludgeoning us with their moral and psychological costs. Adam Wilson, Harper's magazine, "Good Bad Bad Good," 16 Sep. 2019 Studies have repeatedly shown immigrants have a lower level of criminality than those born in the U.S., both shooting suspects were citizens, and federal officials are investigating anti-immigrant bias as a potential motive in the Texas massacre. Anchorage Daily News, "As death count rises in 2 US shootings, a familiar aftermath," 6 Aug. 2019 For much of the first half of the twentieth century, the dominant culture’s conception of black people was mired in racist tropes, exaggerated and dehumanizing characterizations that transmitted criminality and incivility. Syreeta Mcfadden, The Atlantic, "Why Ebony Magazine’s Archives Were Saved," 31 July 2019 But what jurors were treated to Tuesday was a lesson in city politics, but not much of a demonstration of criminality. Adrian Walker,, "As key Walsh aide testifies in corruption trial, clarity remains elusive," 30 July 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of criminality

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for criminality

criminal entry 1 + -ity, perhaps after French criminalité

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about criminality

Statistics for criminality

Last Updated

17 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for criminality

The first known use of criminality was in 1611

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for criminality


crim·​i·​nal·​i·​ty | \ ˌkri-mə-ˈna-lə-tē How to pronounce criminality (audio) \

Legal Definition of criminality

1 : the quality or state of being criminal can't understand the criminality of his act
2 : crime sense 3 violent criminality

More from Merriam-Webster on criminality

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with criminality

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for criminality

Britannica English: Translation of criminality for Arabic Speakers

Comments on criminality

What made you want to look up criminality? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


tired or exhausted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!