fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē \
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

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 The only other ways that a name can be removed from the ballot is if the candidate dies or commits a felony. NBC News, "Still no concession call? Ocasio-Cortez, Crowley trade barbs in primary aftermath," 12 July 2018 Reinking was arrested after a 34-hour manhunt and is now charged with four counts of criminal homicide as well as four counts of attempted homicide and one count of using a firearm while committing a dangerous felony, according to The Tennessean. Scott Berson, charlotteobserver, "Waitress helped save Waffle House shooting survivor. His mom bought her wedding dress," 12 July 2018 Each count is a class 3 felony that carries a possible sentence of probation or up to two to five years in prison if convicted. Christopher Brito, CBS News, "Man seen on video berating woman over Puerto Rico shirt charged with felony hate crimes," 12 July 2018 Some examples: In Florida, organizers succeeded in passing the largest expansion of voting rights in a decade, restoring the right to vote to 1.5 million people with felony convictions. Bree Newsome, SELF, "The 2018 Midterm Elections Proved That Change Must Happen from the Ground Up," 15 Nov. 2018 Like many other states, illicit drug possession — including marijuana — may be classified as a felony charge in the Sunshine State. Danielle Corcione, Teen Vogue, "Three States Approved Legal Marijuana During Midterm Elections," 7 Nov. 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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Statistics for felony

Last Updated

29 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for felony

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

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English Language Learners Definition of felony

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


fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē \
plural felonies

Kids Definition of felony

: a very serious crime


fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē \
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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to express emotion in a dramatic way

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