\ ˈtheft \

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

The threat of intellectual-property theft in China is real, Mr. Bell said. Jay Greene, WSJ, "Trump’s Tech Battle With China Roils Bill Gates Nuclear Venture," 1 Jan. 2019 This economy is currently supporting multiple groups and individuals that have moved to capitalize on the opportunity presented by card theft in the era of online shopping. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "E-commerce site is infected not by one, but two card skimmers," 20 Nov. 2018 He was repeatedly arrested for theft in the 1990s, faced felony charges of possession of anabolic steroids in 2004 and was convicted of grand theft in 2014. Colleen Long, The Seattle Times, "Man charged in mail-bomb plot is a Florida Trump supporter," 26 Oct. 2018 The arrest was part of a larger ongoing investigation into agriculture theft in the Coachella Valley, Riverside County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Trump folds on flag," 27 Aug. 2018 Anthony C Roberson, 27, Milwaukee was charged with three counts of misdemeanor theft in Waukesha County Circuit Court. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee man charged in UPS thefts at Elm Grove facility," 13 July 2018 Police suspect gang members are linked to at least 40 car break-ins and thefts in Carroll County over the past two weeks, Channel 2 Action News reported. Zachary Hansen, ajc, "Police: DeKalb gang has broken into 40 cars to steal money, guns in Carroll Co.," 5 July 2018 The Department of Corrections has denied an Anchorage Daily News public records request asking for booking photos of the more than 400 people charged with vehicle theft in 2017. Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, "State denies public records request for photos of vehicle theft suspects," 30 June 2018 That came after the theft of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency from Japanese exchange Coincheck in January. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "This App With 200 Million Users Is Launching a Cryptocurrency Exchange," 28 June 2018

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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Statistics for theft

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for theft

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

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More Definitions for theft



English Language Learners Definition of theft

: the act or crime of stealing


\ ˈtheft \

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 commiting 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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More from Merriam-Webster on theft

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with theft

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for theft

Spanish Central: Translation of theft

Nglish: Translation of theft for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of theft for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about theft

Comments on theft

What made you want to look up theft? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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