felony

noun
fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio) \
plural felonies

Definition of felony

1 : an act on the part of a feudal vassal (see vassal sense 1) involving the forfeiture of his fee
2a : a grave crime formerly differing from a misdemeanor (see misdemeanor sense 1) under English common law by involving forfeiture in addition to any other punishment
b : a grave crime (such as murder or rape) declared to be a felony by the common law or by statute regardless of the punishment actually imposed
c : a crime declared a felony by statute because of the punishment imposed
d : a crime for which the punishment in federal law may be death or imprisonment for more than one year

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

In US law, a felony is typically defined as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year or by the death penalty. Misdemeanors, in contrast, are often defined as offenses punishable only by fines or by short terms of imprisonment in local jails. Originally, in English law, a felony was a crime for which the perpetrator would suffer forfeiture of all real and personal property as well as whatever sentence was imposed. Under US law, there is no forfeiture of all of the felon’s property, and it is not part of the definition. For certain crimes, however, such as some kinds of racketeering, specific property is subject to forfeiture.

Examples of felony in a Sentence

The crime is considered a felony under state law. He was convicted of felony murder.

Recent Examples on the Web

Lori reportedly faces a felony charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Taysha Murtaugh, Woman's Day, "Lori Loughlin Allegedly Paid $500,000 in Bribes to Get Her Daughters Into College — Here's What We Know About the Girls," 15 Mar. 2019 In Florida, a law restoring voting rights to 1.4 million people with felony convictions went into effect earlier this year. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "AOC Backed Up Bernie Sanders on Voting Rights for People With Felony Convictions," 26 Apr. 2019 June 15, 2015 Police agencies in Waukesha County, Wisconsin raided Godejohn’s family’s home in Big Bend, and took Gypsy and Godejohn into custody on charges of murder and felony armed criminal action. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "A Complete Timeline of Dee Dee Blanchard's Murder and Gypsy Blanchard's Trial," 3 Apr. 2019 She's specifically charged with felony conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, per court papers. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "The Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman College Cheating Scandal Is Too Fascinating," 12 Mar. 2019 Cunningham surrendered on March 24, 2017, in Sonoma County, charged with felony grand theft. Alexander Huls, Popular Mechanics, "The Great Star Wars Heist," 7 Mar. 2019 There were some wins for fair elections in Tuesday night’s results, most notably the victory of a Florida ballot initiative giving the vote for people with felony convictions. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Trump has eroded important democratic institutions. Will Democratic wins change that?," 8 Nov. 2018 Other than those under 18, one of the most commonly referred to groups in this situation is comprised of people with felony convictions. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "Voter Suppression in the 2018 Midterms," 29 Oct. 2018 Prince had more than a dozen felony convictions and was prohibited from possessing a weapon. Fox News, "Finger-pointing over dismissal before workplace shooting," 28 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'felony.' 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 felony

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for felony

see felon entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about felony

Dictionary Entries near felony

felonweed

felonwood

felonwort

felony

fels

felsenmeer

felsic

Statistics for felony

Last Updated

4 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for felony

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for felony

felony

noun

English Language Learners Definition of felony

law : a serious crime (such as murder or rape)

felony

noun
fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio) \
plural felonies

Kids Definition of felony

: a very serious crime

felony

noun
fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio) \
plural felonies

Legal Definition of felony

: a crime that has a greater punishment imposed by statute than that imposed on a misdemeanor specifically : a federal crime for which the punishment may be death or imprisonment for more than a year — see also attainder, treason

Note: Originally in English law a felony was a crime for which the perpetrator would suffer forfeiture of all real and personal property as well as whatever sentence was imposed. Under U.S. law, there is no forfeiture of all of the felon's property (real or personal) and such forfeiture is not part of the definition of a felony. For certain crimes, however (as for a conviction under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or a narcotics law), specific property, such as that used in or gained by the crime, is subject to forfeiture. Every state has its own statutory definition of a felony. Most are in line with the federal definition of a felony as a crime which carries a sentence of imprisonment for more than one year or the death penalty (where applicable). Other states, like Louisiana, define a felony as a crime which carries a sentence of death or imprisonment at hard labor.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on felony

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

WORD OF THE DAY

standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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