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[theef] /θif/
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 forms
underthief, noun, plural underthieves.
Can be confused
burglar, mugger, robber, thief (see synonym study at the current entry)
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.


[theev] /θiv/
verb (used with object), thieved, thieving.
to take by theft; steal.
verb (used without object), thieved, thieving.
to act as a thief; commit theft; steal.
before 950; Old English thēofian, derivative of theōf thief (not recorded in ME)
Related forms
thievingly, adverb
outthieve, verb (used with object), outthieved, outthieving. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for thieves
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I was in the saddle before the story was done, put him at the nearest fence, and was after the thieves.

    When Grandmamma Was New Marion Harland
  • Well, we waited, tied to the table like two thieves, or something.

    The Rich Little Poor Boy Eleanor Gates
  • And the thieves fell on him, tore off his clothes and beat him, then went on their way and left him half dead on the ground.

  • "I suppose the thieves took a hundred dollars of the money," said Levi.

    Freaks of Fortune Oliver Optic
  • The dancer stopped, as if ashamed, and raised the terrible whip, well known to thieves and soldiers.

    An Eagle Flight Jos Rizal
British Dictionary definitions for thieves


noun (pl) thieves (θiːvz)
a person who steals something from another
(criminal law) a person who commits theft
Derived Forms
thievish, adjective
thievishly, adverb
thievishness, noun
Word Origin
Old English thēof; related to Old Frisian thiāf, Old Saxon thiof, Old High German diob, Old Norse thjōfr, Gothic thiufs


to steal (someone's possessions)
Derived Forms
thievery, noun
Word Origin
Old English thēofian, from thēofthief
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 thieves



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").



Old English þeofian, from þeof (see thief). Rare in Old English, not common until 17c. Thieving first attested 1520s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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