Law. a criminal offense defined as less serious than a felony.
an instance of misbehavior; misdeed.

Also especially British, mis·de·mean·our.

Origin of misdemeanor

First recorded in 1480–90; mis-1 + demeanor
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for misdemeanour

Historical Examples of misdemeanour

  • For this misdemeanour they were confined to barracks at Hamilton.

    Adventures and Recollections

    Bill o'th' Hoylus End

  • Brenchfield tried to turn her to the seriousness of her misdemeanour.

  • You cannot make economy a crime, progress a misdemeanour, or efficiency a felony!

    The Root of Evil

    Thomas Dixon

  • I told him there would not be any fear of misdemeanour of that kind with me.

    A Sheaf of Corn

    Mary E. Mann

  • She is very handsome; that is misdemeanour number one, I believe.'

    Lover or Friend

    Rosa Nouchette Carey

British Dictionary definitions for misdemeanour


US misdemeanor


criminal law (formerly) an offence generally less heinous than a felony and which until 1967 involved a different form of trialCompare felony
any minor offence or transgression
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 misdemeanour



also misdemeanour, "legal class of indictable offenses," late 15c.; from mis- (1) "wrong" + Middle English demenure (see demeanor). Related: Misdemeanors; misdemeanours.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

misdemeanour in Culture



A minor crime, punishable by a fine or a light jail term. Common misdemeanors, such as traffic violations, are usually dealt with informally, without a trial. (Compare felony.)

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.