: 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 Lower-level offenders, including those who did not engage in violence or theft, have been required to pay $500. Scott MacFarlane, CBS News, 13 June 2024 The measure, however, may be undercut by the California Legislature’s Democratic leadership, which is pushing a package of bills targeting the rash of retail thefts across the state. Anabel Sosa, Los Angeles Times, 12 June 2024 Google is now testing Android 15’s automatic theft detection features announced at the I/O developer conference in May. Quentyn Kennemer, The Verge, 11 June 2024 Partly thanks to that move, theft will stay flat this year, TJX predicts. Eva Roytburg, Fortune, 7 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for theft 

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 23 Jun. 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

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