A crook is long staff that’s bent at one end, like something you might see a shepherd carrying. A crook can also be a criminal — a person who’s dishonest, or bent, just like the staff.

The noun crook entered English in the 13th century as a way to describe the long tool with a hook at one end. It later took on the meaning of “petty criminal.” You can use crook as an informal way to describe someone who is dishonest. A crook is typically involved in minor or nonviolent crimes; you wouldn’t use the word to describe a murderer, for example. A con man or someone committing fraud could be called a crook.

Primary Meanings of crook

a long staff with one end being hook shaped
bend or cause to bend
someone who has committed a crime or has been legally convicted of a crime
Full Definitions of crook

n a long staff with one end being hook shaped

shepherd's crook
Type of:
a strong rod or stick with a specialized utilitarian purpose

n a circular segment of a curve

“a crook in the path”
bend, turn, twist
a bend or curve (especially in a coastline)
Type of:
curve, curved shape
the trace of a point whose direction of motion changes

v bend or cause to bend

“He crooked his index finger”
curve or bend (something) back or down
Type of:
bend, flex
form a curve

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

criminal, felon, malefactor, outlaw
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)
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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

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