\ ˈtheft How to pronounce theft (audio) \

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 And like anything valuable left just lying on the ground, theft is a problem. Washington Post, "The ‘brown gold’ that falls from pine trees in North Carolina," 31 Mar. 2021 The city's Chief Operating Officer Hakim Berry told FOX2 Detroit that the theft was uncalled-for and that the nurse was not affiliated with a hospital and is likely affiliated with a staffing agency that helps staff nurses at the clinic. Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press, "Report: Nurse steals 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from TCF Center clinic," 17 Mar. 2021 Stephan said research shows wage theft is underreported and employees sometimes don’t understand their rights under the law. David Hernandez, San Diego Union-Tribune, "DA’s office announces new unit to prosecute wage theft, labor trafficking," 22 Feb. 2021 Saturday’s theft was reminiscent of a 2017 incident in which a submachine gun and a bulletproof vest were stolen from a special agent’s vehicle in the Concord-Orinda-Lafayette area. Jessica Flores, San Francisco Chronicle, "Gun, credentials stolen from FBI agent's car in East Bay, feds say," 21 Feb. 2021 Package theft is a mainstay of the Christmas holiday season, but the rise of porch surveillance through Amazon’s Ring and other streaming camera services gave rise to what appears to be a national trend of stealing entire trucks full of packages. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, "Fifth Amazon truck stolen in Cleveland area in just over three weeks in what is becoming a national trend, police reports say," 18 Dec. 2020 The theft was proof of the end of the civic decency that had reigned in the first months of the Covid era. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "A Halloween When Grown-Ups Wore Masks," 1 Nov. 2020 As one Chicago activist affirmed in the days following the Magnificent Mile riot of August 10, theft by Black people is a form of reparations. David Bromwich, Harper's Magazine, "Is America Ungovernable?," 27 Oct. 2020 Overall, crime in the city is down from last year, but homicides are up 23%, burglary has risen 43% and auto theft is up 34%, according to police data through August. Heather Knight,, "Is public safety a priority for D.A. Chesa Boudin? S.F. crime survivors say survey suggests it isn’t," 17 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for theft

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for theft

Last Updated

7 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Theft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for theft



English Language Learners Definition of theft

: the act or crime of stealing


\ ˈtheft How to pronounce theft (audio) \

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 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.

History and Etymology for theft

Old English thiefth

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Comments on theft

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