Learn English | A new lesson every week
Book your course now

In the news: crime vocabulary

Average: 3.7 (98 votes)

Have your ever been the victim of a crime?

Have you ever witnessed a crime?

Have you ever committed a crime?

The world of crime has much specialised vocabulary. On this page you will learn the meaning of the verbs, nouns and adjectives which we associate with crime.
This should help you to understand newspaper and TV news reports on crime.

Crime (noun) is any illegal action or activity. For example, killing your boss is a crime (even if he is a terrible person)!

Crime is never used as a verb. We say 'commit a crime'. Commit is the verb that collocates with 'crime': It basically means 'do'.

'He was sent to prison for a crime that he didn't commit.'

A person who commits a crime is a criminal:

'A dangerous criminal escaped from prison.'

Criminal is also used as an adjective:

'There is a lot of criminal activity in this area.'

What’s the difference between rob and steal?

Rob (verb) means take something from a place or person.
'Rob a bank.' Money is taken from the bank, not the whole thing.
'Rob and old man.' Valuable items are taken from him, we do not take him.

Steal (verb) means to take something.

'I stole candy when I was a child.'
'My bag was stolen at the party.'

Steal = present tense / stole = past simple / stolen = past participle

Theft is the noun form for the verb steal.

A thief is the general name we give to someone who steals something.

Types of crime and types of criminal

Arson - the crime of starting a fire in order to damage or destroy something, especially a building.
Arsonist – a person who starts fires to damage or destroy something

Bank robbery (noun) – the crime of stealing money from a bank.
Bank robber – the person who steals from a bank.

Burglary (noun) – the crime of stealing from a building.
Burglar – a person who steals from a building.
Burgle -verb

Manslaughter (noun) - the crime of killing a person by someone who did not intend to do it or who cannot be responsible for their actions.

Murder (noun) – the crime of killing someone.
Murderer – a person who kills.

Mugging (noun) – an act of attacking someone and stealing their money.
Mugger – the person who attacks someone to steal their money.

Shoplifting (noun) – taking something from a shop without paying for it.
Shoplifter – a person who steals from shops.
Shoplift - verb

Smuggling (noun) - the act of taking things or people to or from a place secretly and illegally.
Smuggler – the person who takes things or people to or from a place secretly and illegally.
Smuggle - verb

Pickpocketing (noun) – the act of stealing things out of pockets or bags secretly.
Pickpocket  - a person who steals things out of pockets or bags secretly.
Pickpocket  - verb

Other people associated with crime

Victim – a person who a crime happens to.
'The criminal stole the victim's car.'

Witness – a person who saw a crime happen.
'Many witnesses saw the bank robber leaving the bank.'

Reading: wedding and vocabulary match exercise

  • The ___ was arrested by police who caught him hiding in his garden.

  • It looks like he is trying to ___ that umbrella.

  • The man was ___ as he walked home late at night.

  • My watch has been ___.

  • She tried to ___ drugs in her suitcase from Toronto to Seattle.

  • The ___ was caught with the CDs in his bag while he was still in the shop.

  • I caught a ___ trying to steal my purse on the crowded bus.

  • The ___ was shot 5 times by the murderer.

  • Police are trying to catch the ___ who set fire to the school.

  • I have never comitted a ___.