\ 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 Alameda police said officers detained Gonzalez on the 800 block of Oak Street around 10:45 a.m. Monday after responding to reports of an intoxicated person suspected of theft. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Family, supporters of man who died in Alameda police custody say Mario Gonzalez was killed 'like George Floyd'," 27 Apr. 2021 The proposal also would direct courts to order people convicted of theft of space-vehicle parts to pay if the equipment was damaged while in their possession., "No finders keepers under spacecraft parts bill that’s landed on DeSantis’ desk," 26 Apr. 2021 She was arrested Wednesday on charges of four counts of first degree theft by deception, two counts of third degree forgery and one count of identity theft. William Thornton |, al, "Alabama woman allegedly swindled 93-year-old grandmother to acquire home, furniture," 23 Apr. 2021 The hookiest element of this Israeli short film about a man who comes across his bike that had been stolen weeks before and accuses its new owner of theft is that its entire 21-minute run time consists of a single take. Joe Reid, Vulture, "Every 2021 Oscar-Nominated Movie, Ranked," 21 Apr. 2021 In 2020, 43 percent of respondents to a national survey conducted by C & R Research reported being victims of package theft, up from 36 percent in 2019. New York Times, "Fending Off the Package Pirates," 20 Apr. 2021 Since the riot, Gosar has come under intense scrutiny for his baseless allegations of election theft. Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic, "Rep. Paul Gosar: Allegations he instigated Jan. 6 Capitol riot are 'devoid of reality'," 17 Apr. 2021 She was later arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft and being an accessory to a crime. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, "National City police release names of officers in shooting at San Diego High School," 16 Apr. 2021 According to the jail's online roster, McClellan is additionally charged with felony residential burglary, two felony counts of theft of property and two felony counts of commercial burglary. William Sanders, Arkansas Online, "Second prisoner in 5 days escapes from Little Rock police station," 15 Apr. 2021

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

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Theft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 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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