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mid-13c., "sinfulness," from Old French crimne (12c., Modern French crime), from Latin crimen (genitive criminis) "charge, indictment, accusation; crime, fault, offense," perhaps from cernere "to decide, to sift" (see crisis). But Klein (citing Brugmann) rejects this and suggests *cri-men, which originally would have been "cry of distress" (Tucker also suggests a root in "cry" words and refers to English plaint, plaintiff, etc.). Meaning "offense punishable by law" is from late 14c. The Latin word is glossed in Old English by facen, also "deceit, fraud, treachery." Crime wave first attested 1893, American English.
three classifications of criminal offense that are central to the administration of justice in many Roman- and civil-law countries (for distinctions in Anglo-American law covering analogous offenses, see felony and misdemeanour). Crimes in French law are the most serious offenses, punishable by death or prolonged imprisonment. A delit is any offense punishable by a short prison sentence, usually from one to five years, or a fine. Contraventions are minor offenses.