A criminal is someone who breaks the law. If you're a murderer, thief, or tax cheat, you're a criminal.

When you think of criminals, your first thought might be of someone awful like a murderer. But this word is a lot broader — Anyone who breaks the law is technically a criminal, even if the crime is just not paying a speeding ticket. You can also talk about criminal activities: things that are illegal. Lots of TV shows are about police officers and lawyers trying to catch criminals who are engaged in all kinds of exciting criminal activity.

Definitions of criminal

n someone who has committed a crime or has been legally convicted of a crime

crook, felon, malefactor, outlaw
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William H. Bonney
United States outlaw who was said to have killed 21 men (1859-1881)
Jesse James
United States outlaw who fought as a Confederate soldier and later led a band of outlaws that robbed trains and banks in the West until he was murdered by a member of his own gang (1847-1882)
Robert MacGregor
Scottish clan leader and outlaw who was the subject of a 1817 novel by Sir Walter Scott (1671-1734)
Benedict Arnold
United States general and traitor in the American Revolution; in 1780 his plan to surrender West Point to the British was foiled (1741-1801)
John Wilkes Booth
United States actor and assassin of President Lincoln (1838-1865)
Alphonse Capone
United States gangster who terrorized Chicago during prohibition until arrested for tax evasion (1899-1947)
Guy Fawkes
English conspirator who was executed for his role in a plot to blow up James I and the Houses of Parliament (1570-1606)
Jack the Ripper
an unidentified English murderer in the 19th century
Jean Laffite
French pirate who aided the United States in the War of 1812 and received an official pardon for his crimes (1780-1826)
Sir Henry Morgan
a Welsh buccaneer who raided Spanish colonies in the West Indies for the English (1635-1688)
Titus Oates
English conspirator who claimed that there was a Jesuit plot to assassinate Charles II (1649-1705)
Lee Harvey Oswald
United States assassin of President John F. Kennedy (1939-1963)
Bartholomew Roberts
a Welsh pirate credited with having taken more than 400 ships (1682-1722)
Edward Thatch
an English pirate who operated in the Caribbean and off the Atlantic coast of North America (died in 1718)
Dick Turpin
English highwayman (1706-1739)
Khayr ad-Din
Barbary pirate (died in 1546)
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accessary, accessory
someone who helps another person commit a crime
arsonist, firebug, incendiary
a criminal who illegally sets fire to property
blackmailer, extortioner, extortionist
a criminal who extorts money from someone by threatening to expose embarrassing information about them
bootlegger, moonshiner
someone who makes or sells illegal liquor
briber, suborner
someone who pays (or otherwise incites) you to commit a wrongful act
coconspirator, conspirator, machinator, plotter
a member of a conspiracy
desperado, desperate criminal
a bold outlaw (especially on the American frontier)
fugitive, fugitive from justice
someone who is sought by law officers; someone trying to elude justice
gangster, mobster
a criminal who is a member of gang
a corrupt politician
highjacker, hijacker
someone who uses force to take over a vehicle (especially an airplane) in order to reach an alternative destination
goon, hood, hoodlum, punk, strong-armer, thug, tough, toughie
an aggressive and violent young criminal
gaolbird, jail bird, jailbird
a criminal who has been jailed repeatedly
abductor, kidnaper, kidnapper, snatcher
someone who unlawfully seizes and detains a victim (usually for ransom)
a member of the Mafia crime syndicate in the United States
gangster's moll, gun moll, moll
the girlfriend of a gangster
liquidator, manslayer, murderer
a criminal who commits homicide (who performs the unlawful premeditated killing of another human being)
parolee, probationer
someone released on probation or on parole
drug dealer, drug peddler, drug trafficker, peddler, pusher
an unlicensed dealer in illegal drugs
someone who commits crimes for profit (especially one who obtains money by fraud or extortion)
raper, rapist
someone who forces another to have sexual intercourse
habitual criminal, recidivist, repeater
someone who is repeatedly arrested for criminal behavior (especially for the same criminal behavior)
one who habitually ignores the law and does not answer court summonses
contrabandist, moon curser, moon-curser, runner, smuggler
someone who imports or exports without paying duties
stealer, thief
a criminal who takes property belonging to someone else with the intention of keeping it or selling it
traitor, treasonist
someone who betrays his country by committing treason
law offender, lawbreaker, violator
someone who violates the law
a Parisian gangster
a fugitive who runs away and hides to avoid arrest or prosecution
abetter, abettor
one who helps or encourages or incites another
accessory after the fact
a person who gives assistance or comfort to someone known to be a felon or known to be sought in connection with the commission of a felony
accessory before the fact
a person who procures or advises or commands the commission of a felony but who is not present at its perpetration
accessory during the fact
a person who witnesses a crime but does not try to prevent it
assassin, assassinator, bravo
a murderer (especially one who kills a prominent political figure) who kills by a surprise attack and often is hired to do the deed
a racketeer assigned to collect or distribute payoff money
bandit, brigand
an armed thief who is (usually) a member of a band
someone who burns down a barn
booster, lifter, shoplifter
a thief who steals goods that are in a store
a hired thug
a thief who enters a building with intent to steal
a brutal indiscriminate murderer
collaborationist, collaborator, quisling
someone who collaborates with an enemy occupying force
collaborator, confederate, henchman, partner in crime
someone who assists in a plot
someone who smuggles illegal immigrants into the United States (usually across the Mexican border)
crimp, crimper
someone who tricks or coerces men into service as sailors or soldiers
someone who murders by cutting the victim's throat
dacoit, dakoit
a member of an armed gang of robbers
defalcator, embezzler, peculator
someone who violates a trust by taking (money) for his own use
someone who escapes
fifth columnist, saboteur
a member of a clandestine subversive organization who tries to help a potential invader
a person who murders their brother or sister
body snatcher, ghoul, graverobber
someone who takes bodies from graves and sells them for anatomical dissection
someone who steals valuables from graves or crypts
gun, gun for hire, gunman, gunslinger, hired gun, hit man, hitman, shooter, torpedo, triggerman
a professional killer who uses a gun
arms-runner, gunrunner
a smuggler of guns
hatchet man, iceman
a professional killer
holdup man, stickup man
an armed thief
a person who murders an infant
larcener, larcenist
a person who commits larceny
mass murderer
a person who is responsible for the deaths of many victims in a single incident
a woman murderer
someone who kills his or her parent
cutpurse, dip, pickpocket
a thief who steals from the pockets or purses of others in public places
literary pirate, pirate, plagiariser, plagiarist, plagiarizer
someone who uses another person's words or ideas as if they were his own
despoiler, freebooter, looter, pillager, plunderer, raider, spoiler
someone who takes spoils or plunder (as in war)
a murderer who slashes the victims with a knife
a thief who steals from someone by threatening violence
someone who illegally smuggles liquor across a border
cattle thief, rustler
someone who steals livestock (especially cattle)
cracksman, safebreaker, safecracker
a thief who breaks open safes to steal valuable contents
serial killer, serial murderer
someone who murders more than three victims one at a time in a relatively short interval
seizer, shanghaier
a kidnapper who drugs men and takes them for compulsory service aboard a ship
a thief who grabs and runs
pilferer, sneak thief, snitcher
a thief who steals without using violence
female traitor
a Japanese gangster
member of an international gang of Jamaican criminals who sell drugs and violence
Type of:
(criminal law) any person involved in a criminal offense, regardless of whether the person profits from such involvement

adj involving or being or having the nature of a crime

“a criminal offense”
criminal abuse”
prohibited by law or by official or accepted rules

adj guilty of crime or serious offense

criminal in the sight of God and man”
responsible for or chargeable with a reprehensible act

adj bringing or deserving severe rebuke or censure

“a criminal waste of talent”
condemnable, deplorable, reprehensible, vicious
contrary to conscience or morality or law

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