\ 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 robber, Jonathan Braun Ortiz, had been acquitted of a similar, $600,000 jewelry theft in Del Cerro. Pauline Repard,, "Robber gets 15 years for $1.5M jewel theft, assault in University Town Center," 12 July 2018 Detroit was ranked in 99th place for safety, also coming in a three-way tie with Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Oakland, California, for the city with the highest car-theft rate. Caroline Blackmon, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit ranked worst city to drive in," 10 July 2018 Those tactics include cyber-theft as well as forcing companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to China's market. Author: Paul Wiseman, Josh Boakap, Anchorage Daily News, "US-China trade war elevates the risks to the global economy," 7 July 2018 Those measures are aimed at fighting what administration officials say is China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property and its insistence that companies divulge valuable technology to enter China’s market. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "U.S. trade war with China, other countries: Layoffs, reduced hours, thinner profits," 6 July 2018 There will be educational resources on suspicious activity, neighborhood watch, residential security, preventing burglary along with identity theft, vehicle theft, crime prevention services and personal safety. Linda Mcintosh,, "Lions Club member receives fellowship award news," 14 July 2018 Jarod Kohrt, 39, was charged July 11 in Waukesha County Circuit Court with burglary of a room within a building, theft of movable property and disorderly conduct. Steven Martinez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Genesee Lake School employee caught in sex act in female colleague's classroom, complaint says," 13 July 2018 Los Angeles County prosecutors said Friday that 21-year-old Susan Antrach of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, has been charged with five identity-theft counts, five fraud counts and one count of accessing and using data without permission. CBS News, "Woman charged with hacking Selena Gomez’s email," 13 July 2018 Some of his past convictions include burglary, vehicle theft, criminal mischief, weapons misconduct, trespassing and DUI. Matt Tunseth, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Life is completely not normal’: Chugiak family’s life turned upside down by burglary," 12 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

Old English thiefth

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Learn More about theft

Phrases Related to theft

petit theft

petty theft

Statistics for theft

Last Updated

16 Sep 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.

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Comments on theft

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the setting in which something occurs

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