\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

Rosenstein said the hacking of a state election board led to the theft of information from about 500,000 American voters, CNBC reported. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "12 Russians Are Charged With Conspiring to Hack the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election," 13 July 2018 According to a public court summary viewed by the Free Press, Pettigrew was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, theft of services and public drunkenness. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Ex-Detroit Lion Brandon Pettigrew reportedly punches cop, arrested," 9 July 2018 Trump has ordered tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods in response to Beijing's forced transfer of U.S. technology and intellectual property theft. Matthew Daly,, "House backs $675 billion spending bill for Pentagon," 28 June 2018 Auxier pleaded no contest to theft of a person 65 years or older and unlawful contracting and was sentenced to 10 years probation in June 2017. David Harris,, "Man on probation for scamming elderly woman gets prison for latest scheme in Apopka," 26 June 2018 Trump recently ordered tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods in retaliation for intellectual property theft. Jeff Karoub And Zeke Miller,, "In tit-for-tat, Trump threatens more tariffs against China," 19 June 2018 Hassett pushed back a bit on my suggestion of disharmony, noting that Trump’s trade actions on China were based in part on work his shop had done, estimating the cost to the US economy of intellectual property theft from China. Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor, "Breakfast with the ‘referee’ of Trump economic policy," 30 Apr. 2018 In the Washington area, as elsewhere, package theft is a significant problem. Martin Weil, Washington Post, "Police see big trash bag dragged on Capitol Hill, ask questions, make arrest," 11 July 2018 He's also charged with theft by unlawful taking in Jefferson County, according to online court records. Thomas Novelly, The Courier-Journal, "'Gnome bandit' accused of Highlands thefts arrested in Georgia," 10 July 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

28 Oct 2018

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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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).


playful or foolish behavior

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