noun, plural thieves.

a person who steals, especially secretly or without open force; one guilty of theft or larceny.

Origin of thief

before 900; Middle English; Old English thēof; cognate with Dutch dief, German Dieb, Old Norse thjōfr, Gothic thiufs
Related formsun·der·thief, noun, plural un·der·thieves.
Can be confusedburglar mugger robber thief (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for thief

burglar, pickpocket, highwayman. Thief, robber refer to one who steals. A thief takes the goods or property of another by stealth without the latter's knowledge: like a thief in the night. A robber trespasses upon the house, property, or person of another, and makes away with things of value, even at the cost of violence: A robber held up two women on the street. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for thief

Contemporary Examples of thief

Historical Examples of thief

  • Their shame was hers: the son of her mother, the son of her father was a thief!

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • "The less reason, then, for her being a thief," Gilder grumbled in his heaviest voice.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Mortimer was either a thief or a hero; there could be no question about that.


    W. A. Fraser

  • Against all evidence she was holding this man honest, believing her brother the thief.


    W. A. Fraser

  • You're the thief—Levi West—you come here and stole my daddy from me ye did.

British Dictionary definitions for thief


noun plural thieves (θiːvz)

a person who steals something from another
criminal law a person who commits theft
Derived Formsthievish, adjectivethievishly, adverbthievishness, noun

Word Origin for thief

Old English thēof; related to Old Frisian thiāf, Old Saxon thiof, Old High German diob, Old Norse thjōfr, Gothic thiufs
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 thief

Old English þeof, from Proto-Germanic *theubaz (cf. Old Frisian thiaf, Old Saxon thiof, Middle Dutch dief, Old High German diob, German dieb, Old Norse þiofr, Gothic þiufs), probably from PIE *teup- (cf. Lithuanian tupeti "to crouch down").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper