\ 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

USA Today reports that Dolezal/Diallo is charged with first-degree theft by welfare fraud, making false verification and second-degree perjury. Angela Helm, The Root, "Rachel Dolezal Booked and Released From Jail on Welfare Fraud Charges," 4 July 2018 According to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Folk was charged this time around with petty theft. Madeleine Marr, miamiherald, "He had just been released from jail. His freedom lasted exactly 6 hours and 9 minutes," 29 June 2018 Glenn Cody, 52, of the 600 block of Pondersa Drive, was charged Tuesday with theft $100 to $1,500. Erika Butler, The Aegis, "Police blotter," 28 June 2018 The teen had been charged with auto theft on May 31, police said. Christine Dempsey,, "HPD: 7th Auto Theft Charge For Teen Shot While Behind The Wheel Of Stolen Car," 12 June 2018 Holt was charged with theft of less than $1,000 in November, according to court documents. Sarah Meehan,, "Video depicting Baltimore County officer stopping shopper goes viral," 11 June 2018 That story required an understanding of how his parents met and fell in love, and that in turn meant going back to the very genesis of it all, with the theft of a lump of gold from the bottom of the Rhine. Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bingeing on ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘The Wire’? Wagner’s ‘Ring’ paved the way," 30 May 2018 Rachel Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016, was charged this week with theft by welfare fraud, perjury and false verification for public assistance, Spokane news station KHQ-TV reported Thursday. NBC News, "Rachel Dolezal, former NAACP leader who posed as black, charged with welfare fraud," 25 May 2018 Dolezal was charged this week with theft by welfare fraud, perjury and false verification for public assistance, court documents show. Faith Karimi, CNN, "Rachel Dolezal, white woman who portrayed herself as black, accused of welfare fraud," 25 May 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

18 Feb 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

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excited commotion or publicity

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