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 An Ohio grand jury indicted Coy Wednesday on murder in the commission of a felony, felonious assault, and two counts of dereliction of duty. NBC News, "Bond set at $3M after ex-Ohio officer pleads not guilty in shooting death of Andre Hill," 6 Feb. 2021 Wheeler was arrested by police in Kent, Wash., and booked into the King County Jail early Saturday for investigation of felony domestic violence. BostonGlobe.com, "Lions hire Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator, fortify front office," 27 Jan. 2021 Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Chad Wheeler was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence and booked into the King County Jail in Seattle on Saturday, according to jail records. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Seahawks’ Chad Wheeler arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence," 27 Jan. 2021 Singh is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport, along with misdemeanor theft. Star Tribune, "How does someone live at the airport undetected for nearly three months?," 22 Jan. 2021 The Chicago Tribune reports Aditya Singh, 36, is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanor theft. Chronicle Staff, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: Jan. 14-20," 21 Jan. 2021 He is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanor theft. cleveland, "Man lives undetected in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for 3 months," 19 Jan. 2021 He was charged with felony criminal trespass, the report said. Fox News, "California man allegedly lived in airport for months because he was afraid to fly: report," 18 Jan. 2021 Defenders of the current system contend that magistrates perform an essential function of the state’s justice system — clearing dockets of minor cases so that the state’s circuit judges have time to handle major felony and civil cases. Joseph Cranney, ProPublica, "South Carolina’s Governor Addresses Magistrate Judge Controversy by Urging Changes," 15 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for felony

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for felony

Last Updated

20 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Felony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/felony. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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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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