felony

noun

fel·​o·​ny ˈfe-lə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio)
plural felonies
1
: an act on the part of a feudal vassal (see vassal sense 1) involving the forfeiture of his fee
2
a
: 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

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 Todd Michael Schultz, 37, is being held on felony charges at Twin Towers jail, a facility L.A. County mostly uses to house suspects with serious mental illnesses, according to the Sheriff’s Department jail census website. Jaclyn Cosgrove, Los Angeles Times, 17 Feb. 2024 But a prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act would undermine all these policies and open the door to future Attorneys General bringing similar felony charges against journalists. Landon Mion, Fox News, 17 Feb. 2024 If caught, the people who killed the horses will face felony charges related to theft and animal cruelty, Zabaleta said. David Goodhue and, Miami Herald, 16 Feb. 2024 Jail records show they were being held on an unspecified felony charge. Cnn.com Wire Service, The Mercury News, 16 Feb. 2024 Gun pickup ends in charge A Wichita man faces a felony charge in Jackson County after allegedly picking up a firearm off the ground after the mass shooting. Bill Lukitsch, Kansas City Star, 16 Feb. 2024 Wooton also has three other open felony theft-by-swindle cases out of Anoka, Hennepin and Stearns counties that are pending in court, records show. Nick Ferraro, Twin Cities, 14 Feb. 2024 Trump has since been indicted four times on felony charges, including twice in federal and Georgia state court for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. Alison Durkee, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 The elder Mahomes faces a single felony charge in Smith County, roughly 100 miles east of Dallas, of DWI with two or more prior convictions. Bill Lukitsch, Kansas City Star, 5 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'felony.' 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

see felon entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near felony

Cite this Entry

“Felony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/felony. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

felony

noun
fel·​o·​ny ˈfel-ə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio)
plural felonies
: a serious crime punishable by a heavy sentence
felonious
fə-ˈlō-nē-əs
adjective
feloniously adverb

Legal Definition

felony

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