\ 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 The suspect, who was arrested, has several felony warrants for auto theft. Tim Harlow, Star Tribune, "Homeowner hurt when stolen vehicle crashes into his New Hope house," 2 Sep. 2020 China’s penchant for intellectual property theft has created uncertainty even around federal government contracts awarded to American captains of industry such as Musk, a pioneer of private sector spaceflight and electric cars. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Elon Musk's SpaceX NASA contracts threatened over Tesla China ties," 26 Aug. 2020 Stowers had publicly recalled a time when the two spotted a tabloid article about a black woman wanted for theft and called the police to pin the crimes on her as revenge for her cheating scandal with Jax Taylor. Jodi Guglielmi,, "Lisa Vanderpump Says Rumors of Stassi Schroeder's New Show Are 'False': 'It's Not True'," 26 Aug. 2020 The arriving officer arrested an Avon Lake man for theft. John Benson, cleveland, "Avon Lake man arrested while stealing $4,200 central air conditioning unit: Brooklyn Police Blotter," 26 Aug. 2020 Terms range from a few weeks for simple theft to eight years for murder. Lynn Marie Stephen, The Conversation, "Latin American women are disappearing and dying under lockdown," 24 Aug. 2020 Rebecca O'Donnell's other criminal history includes a three-year probation sentence for theft in Randolph County, according to the Arkansas Division of Community Correction. John Moritz, Arkansas Online, "Collins' slayer investigated in '07, file shows; police focus said to be talk of a hit," 14 Aug. 2020 He is being held at the Hamilton County Justice Center on a $10,000 bond for theft without consent. Segann March, The Enquirer, "Sheriff: Escaped Hamilton Co. inmate taken into custody," 14 Aug. 2020 Jimmy Nichols is the 59-year-old white man who was eventually summoned for theft and criminal mischief. Mimi Madrid, The Denver Post, "Madrid: Stealing and burning Native American flags is apparently not a hate crime in Northglenn," 3 Aug. 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

9 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Theft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for theft


How to pronounce theft (audio)

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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