\ ˈthēf How to pronounce thief (audio) \
plural thieves\ ˈthēvz How to pronounce thieves (audio) \

Definition of thief

: one that steals especially stealthily or secretly also : one who commits theft or larceny

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Examples of thief in a Sentence

A thief took my purse. a thief has been stealing wallets and valuables from the lockers at the gym

Recent Examples on the Web

Amazon is particularly interested in the technology as the company tries to stop neighborhood porch thieves who steal package deliveries. Eric Levenson, CNN, "Ring and its doorbell cameras have partnered with over 400 police departments," 29 Aug. 2019 Kelley's vehicle has still not been located, and police asked the public for assistance identifying the car thief. N'dea Yancey-bragg, USA TODAY, "A man's truck was stolen while he was robbing a store across the street, police say," 27 Aug. 2019 Anyone who fears their car might be targeted with key cloning or relay attacks should consider keeping their keys in a Faraday bag—at least at night, when car thieves tend to operate. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, "Hackers Could Steal a Tesla Model S by Cloning Its Key Fob—Again," 27 Aug. 2019 Video has been released that shows Connecticut police swarming Yankees general manager Brian Cashman last Friday with guns drawn after he was mistakenly identified for an armed car thief. Emily Caron,, "Body Cam Footage Released After Cops Stop Yankees' Cashman for Mistaken Car Theft," 14 Aug. 2019 Modern technology won't triumph over sophisticated car thieves looking for a specific make and model, but will help. Ed Leefeldt, CBS News, "Here are the cars and trucks most likely to get stolen in the U.S.," 1 Aug. 2019 Consumers should consider freezing their credit, which stops thieves from opening new credit cards or loans in their names. Sarah Skidmore Sell, The Denver Post, "Equifax $700M settlement: What consumers should know," 22 July 2019 Consider freezing your credit, which stops thieves from opening new credit cards or loans in your name., "What you could get from the $700M Equifax settlement: Answers about the data breach and its aftermath," 21 July 2019 These crimes typically target unlocked cars, but locked doors did not stop thieves from smashing seven car windows on the far south end of the village early July 3. Jeff Rumage, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Car thefts are on the rise in Shorewood, Whitefish Bay and Fox Point," 11 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'thief.' 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 thief

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for thief

Middle English theef, from Old English thēof; akin to Old High German diob thief

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Statistics for thief

Last Updated

2 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for thief

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

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More Definitions for thief



English Language Learners Definition of thief

: a person who steals something


\ ˈthēf How to pronounce thief (audio) \
plural thieves\ ˈthēvz \

Kids Definition of thief

: a person who steals : robber


plural thieves

Legal Definition of thief

: one who commits theft

History and Etymology for thief

Old English thēof

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More from Merriam-Webster on thief

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with thief

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for thief

Spanish Central: Translation of thief

Nglish: Translation of thief for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of thief for Arabic Speakers

Comments on thief

What made you want to look up thief? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealment of treason or felony

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