or clep·to·ma·ni·a

[klep-tuh-mey-nee-uh, -meyn-yuh]

Origin of kleptomania

1820–30; klepto- (combining form of Greek kléptēs thief) + -mania
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for kleptomania

Historical Examples of kleptomania

  • A euphemism of kleptomania had been offered and accepted as sufficient excuse for her crime.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Had Pistol lived in these days he would have said, 'Kleptomania the wise it call.'

  • The victim of kleptomania will steal any and everything; they are like magpies in this respect.

  • One man is afflicted with colour-blindness, another with kleptomania.

    Not Guilty

    Robert Blatchford

  • It may be kleptomania,—God knows; but whatever it is, she threw off all disguise.


    Charles King

British Dictionary definitions for kleptomania


  1. psychol a strong impulse to steal, esp when there is no obvious motivation
Derived Formskleptomaniac, noun

Word Origin for kleptomania

C19: klepto- from Greek kleptēs thief, from kleptein to steal + -mania
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for kleptomania

1830, formed from mania + Greek kleptes "thief," from kleptein "to steal, act secretly," from PIE *klep- "to steal," an extention of root *kel- "to cover, conceal" (see cell; cf. Latin clepere "to steal, listen secretly to," Old Prussian au-klipts "hidden," Old Church Slavonic poklopu "cover, wrapping," Gothic hlifan "to steal," hliftus "thief"). Much-derided 19c. as a fancy term for old-fashioned thievery and an opportunity for the privileged to claim a psychological motive for criminal misbehavior.

There is a popular belief that some of the criminal laws under which the poor are rigorously punished are susceptible of remarkable elasticity when the peccadilloes of the rich are brought under judgment, and that there is some truth in the old adage which declares that "one man may steal a horse where another dare not look over the hedge." This unwholesome distrust is not likely to diminish if, in cases of criminal prosecutions where so-called respectable persons commit theft without sufficiently obvious motive for the act, they have their crime extenuated on the plea of kleptomania, as has recently occurred in several notable instances. ["Kleptomania," "The Lancet," Nov. 16, 1861]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

kleptomania in Medicine


[klĕp′tə-mānē-ə, -mānyə]
  1. An obsessive impulse to steal regardless of economic need, usually arising from an unconscious symbolic value associated with the stolen item.
Related formsklep′to•mani•ac′ (-nē-ăk′) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

kleptomania in Culture



A compulsion to steal, usually without either economic need or personal desire.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.