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

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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

One is Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, which aims to reduce alcohol and drug use and recidivism among high-risk felony probationers. Kayla Webley Adler, Marie Claire, "I Was One Of The Top Doctors In My Field. I Was Also An Opioid Addict.," 25 Feb. 2019 Songer sees several problems with the initiative, including age and the security requirements and placing gun owners at risk of facing felony charges if someone uses their firearm in a crime or to harm themselves or someone else. Phil Ferolito, The Seattle Times, "Drawing a line: Klickitat County sheriff says he won’t enforce Washington’s new gun law," 30 Jan. 2019 Manafort told is a potential new felony charge of lying to federal investigators, perjury, obstruction of justice, or combination thereof. Murray Waas, Vox, "Exclusive: Paul Manafort advised White House on how to attack and discredit investigation of President Trump," 14 Dec. 2018 Soules is currently facing a felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Lynsey Eidell, Glamour, "Bachelor and Bachelorette Couples: The Complete List," 2 Nov. 2018 In total, 660 felony charges have been filed against the suspects, though more could be tacked on as the investigation progresses, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a news release. Fox News, "Disney World, Lego workers arrested in child pornography sting," 2 Oct. 2018 The three men have been charged with 26 felony counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, hacking, and more. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "DOJ announces arrest of 3 men allegedly behind notorious FIN7 hacking group," 1 Aug. 2018 Its criminal designation varies in intensity, with California's version counting as either a third-degree felony or a misdemeanor. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "YouTube tells impersonation victim: No, you’re not being impersonated," 6 Dec. 2018 That impersonation charge is a felony under Arizona law. Isabella Gomez, Teen Vogue, "A Fake Cop Allegedly Tried to Detain a Teen Outside His Homecoming Dance," 5 Oct. 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.

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First Known Use of felony

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for felony

see felon entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near felony

felonweed

felonwood

felonwort

felony

fels

felsenmeer

felsic

Statistics for felony

Last Updated

12 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for felony

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

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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.

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