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

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 Alderete was charged with four counts — including felony theft (value over $25,000) and aggravated criminal damage to property, per the WPD. Charna Flam, Peoplemag, 14 Feb. 2024 In 2022, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge dismissed theft, embezzlement, fraud and false imprisonment charges against Morgan after a jury deadlocked in the case. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Feb. 2024 That includes major increases in property crime (24 percent), violent crime (39 percent), and motor-vehicle theft (82 percent). Nr Editors, National Review, 9 Feb. 2024 The skepticism of some residents only increased when they were told of unexpected interruptions with data collection, including the theft of three metal canisters that were used to collect air samples. Tony Briscoe, Los Angeles Times, 9 Feb. 2024 The sheriff took him into custody on a theft of an airplane charge. Julia Daye, Sacramento Bee, 9 Feb. 2024 The Berkeley theft happened about 12:23 p.m. Wednesday at the Apple Store, 1823 Fourth Street. Harry Harris, The Mercury News, 8 Feb. 2024 That was the case in May 2017, when James Dale Cavanaugh was killed during a comic book theft at Kansas City’s historic Clint’s Comics. Robert A. Cronkleton, Kansas City Star, 6 Feb. 2024 The Police Department is urging anyone with information regarding the theft to contact Sgt. Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 31 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'theft.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near theft

Cite this Entry

“Theft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: the act of stealing

Legal Definition


: 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.


Old English thiefth

More from Merriam-Webster on theft

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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