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kleptomania

[klep-tuh-mey-nee-uh, -meyn-yuh] /ˌklɛp təˈmeɪ ni ə, -ˈmeɪn yə/
noun, Psychology
1.
an irresistible impulse to steal, stemming from emotional disturbance rather than economic need.
Also, cleptomania.
Origin
1820-1830
1820-30; klepto- (combining form of Greek kléptēs thief) + -mania
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for kleptomania

kleptomania

/ˌklɛptəʊˈmeɪnɪə/
noun
1.
(psychol) a strong impulse to steal, esp when there is no obvious motivation
Derived Forms
kleptomaniac, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for kleptomania
n.

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
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kleptomania in Medicine

kleptomania klep·to·ma·ni·a (klěp'tə-mā'nē-ə, -mān'yə)
n.
An obsessive impulse to steal regardless of economic need, usually arising from an unconscious symbolic value associated with the stolen item.


klep'to·ma'ni·ac' (-nē-āk') adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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kleptomania in Culture
kleptomania [(klep-tuh-may-nee-uh)]

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

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for kleptomania

recurrent compulsion to steal without regard to the value or use of the objects stolen. Although widely known and sometimes used as an attempted legal defense by arrested thieves, genuine kleptomania is a fairly rare mental disorder. A kleptomaniac may hide, give away, or secretly return the stolen items, but he seldom uses them or attempts to profit by their resale. The kleptomaniac usually has the economic means to purchase what he steals and obtains gratification from the theft itself rather than from its object.

Learn more about kleptomania with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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