[ theef ]
/ θif /
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See synonyms for: thief / thieves on Thesaurus.com

noun, plural thieves.
a person who steals, especially secretly or without open force; one guilty of theft or larceny.
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Origin of thief

First recorded before 900; Middle English; Old English thēof; cognate with Dutch dief,German Dieb,Old Norse thjōfr,Gothic thiufs

synonym study for thief

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.


un·der·thief, noun, plural un·der·thieves.


robber, thief (see synonym study at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does thief mean?

A thief is a person who steals, especially in secret and without using force or violence.

The plural of thief is thieves. The related noun theft refers to the act or an instance of stealing.

In general, intentionally taking something that doesn’t belong to you makes you a thief. The word most commonly refers to a person who steals money or physical property, but a thief can steal other things, such as ideas, information, or intellectual property.

The word thief typically refers to a person who steals without anyone noticing, at least not when the theft is taking place. In contrast, a person who steals by using force, violence, or threats of force or violence would more likely be called a robber. Still, the word thief is used generally to refer to someone who steals. In this way, a robber is a kind of thief.

Most instances of theft are crimes, but a person might still be called a thief if they’ve committed a theft that won’t get them arrested. You might call your sibling a thief when they steal a cookie from your plate, for example.

Example: I don’t care that he only stole a few things—he stole them, and that makes him a thief.

Where does thief come from?

The first records of the word thief come from before the year 900. It comes from the Old English thēof.

There is no shortage of ways to be a thief, and many of them have a specific name. Some thieves steal small things. A petty thief is someone who has a record of small thefts. A shoplifter is a thief who steals from retail stores. Some thieves steal valuable items. Art thieves, jewel thieves, and car thieves are common characters in pop culture. A pickpocket is a thief who steals things, such as wallets or watches, directly from people’s pockets or from their body.

A burglar is a thief who breaks into or otherwise unlawfully enters a home or business to steal valuables. However, while burglars might be called thieves in general, this type of theft is more likely to be labeled as robbery, since it also involves trespassing on someone’s property and invading their space.

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How is thief used in real life?

Regardless of what they’re thought to have stolen, calling someone a thief is a serious accusation.


Try using thief!

Which of the following people could be considered a thief?

A. a shoplifter
B. a pickpocket
C. a person who steals your idea
D. all of the above

How to use thief in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for thief

/ (θiːf) /

noun plural thieves (θiːvz)
a person who steals something from another
criminal law a person who commits theft

Derived forms of thief

thievish, 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