\ ˈtheft How to pronounce theft (audio) \

Definition of theft

1a : the act of stealing specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it
b : an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property
2 : a stolen base in baseball
3 obsolete : something stolen

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Examples of theft in a Sentence

The theft of the jewelry and other valuables was immediately reported to the police. He was found guilty of theft.
Recent Examples on the Web In 2018, the ITC imposed a 25-year exclusion order based on a default judgment against Organik Kimya, a chemicals firm that destroyed evidence after being accused of trade secrets theft by Dow Chemical. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Looming trade secrets decision may be ‘catastrophic’ for Ford and Volkswagen’s EV ambitions," 23 Oct. 2020 Other complaints cited by police included firearms on site, assault, underage drinking, and theft, Elliott’s office said. Lori Weisberg, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego city attorney moves to shut down La Jolla Airbnb party mansion," 23 Oct. 2020 Second, the theft and Burian’s subsequent battle with the bank are likely unrelated to the problems for which the OCC penalized USAA Bank. Greg Jefferson,, "Jefferson: ‘Am I in the Twilight Zone?’ Marine has to eat the loss after $10,000 is looted from his USAA Bank account," 23 Oct. 2020 Study participants were shown a cookie-theft picture and asked to write a description of the image. Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY, "Alzheimer's disease: IBM study cites language use as an early sign of disease," 23 Oct. 2020 Pierce said police have not been able to find the skeleton and unfortunately none of his neighbors caught the theft on their video surveillance cameras. FOX 35 Orlando, "Casselberry teacher wants stolen, 12-foot tall Halloween decoration returned," 22 Oct. 2020 Asked to pick a favorite, the answer was clear: his theft from Freeman. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "There’s Been a Dramatic Rise in Baseball’s Most Exciting Play: The Home-Run Robbery," 22 Oct. 2020 Much of the case centered on Jho Low, a Malaysian financier whom prosecutors accused of orchestrating the theft. Greg Farrell,, "Goldman Admits Role in Record $1.6 Billion 1MDB Bribe Spree," 22 Oct. 2020 Heavy rain did not discourage two auto theft suspects from crossing the state to avoid arrest, but the Florida Highway Patrol said they were captured near Fort Lauderdale anyway. Wayne K. Roustan,, "Cross-state auto theft ends with two arrests, FHP says," 22 Oct. 2020

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for theft

Middle English thiefthe, from Old English thīefth; akin to Old English thēof thief

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Time Traveler for theft

Time Traveler

The first known use of theft was before the 12th century

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Statistics for theft

Last Updated

27 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Theft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for theft


How to pronounce theft (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of theft

: the act or crime of stealing


\ ˈtheft How to pronounce theft (audio) \

Kids Definition of theft

: the act of stealing



Legal Definition of theft

: larceny broadly : a criminal taking of the property or services of another without consent

Note: Theft commonly encompasses by statute a variety of forms of stealing formerly treated as distinct crimes.

grand theft
: theft of property or services whose value exceeds a specified amount or of a specified kind of property (as an automobile)

Note: Grand theft is a felony.

identity theft
: the unauthorized use of another's means of identification (as name or social security number) for the purpose of committing theft or another crime
petty theft
: theft of property or services whose value is below a specified amount

called also petit theft

Note: Petty theft is a misdemeanor but may be aggravated by prior convictions.

History and Etymology for theft

Old English thiefth

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Comments on theft

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