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Related to criminality: crime, Criminal activity


n. pl. crim·i·nal·i·ties
1. The state, quality, or fact of being criminal.
2. A criminal practice or act.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


n, pl -ties
1. (Law) the state or quality of being criminal
2. (Law) (often plural) rare a criminal act or practice
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˌkrɪm əˈnæl ɪ ti)

n., pl. -ties.
1. the state of being criminal.
2. a criminal act or practice.
[1605–15; < Medieval Latin]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.



bootlegger A smuggler; a dealer in illicit goods; originally, a dealer in contraband whiskey, so-called because the bottles were often carried hidden in the legs of his tall boots. Though the term gained currency during the era of Prohibition (1920-33), it dates at least from the mid-19th century. It was much used in the dry states of Kansas and Oklahoma in the 1880s. Back formation yielded bootleg, both verb and adjective.

cutpurse A pickpocket, a thief. This term, in use since the 14th century, originally described those who stole by cutting purses off the belt or girdle from which they were hung. Since purses or money-holders are now carried in pockets rather than worn at the waist, the term pickpocket has all but replaced its older counterpart cutpurse.

Dick Turpin Any especially daring or flagrant highway robber or bandit. Dick Turpin (1706-39) was an infamous English highwayman renowned for his criminal derring-do. He appears as a character in William Harrison Ainsworth’s romance Rook wood (1834), as well as in various thriller novels.

five-finger A thief, pickpocket. In this expression, the obvious reference is to the hand and its role in stealing something or in picking someone’s pocket. A similar expression, five-finger discount is used to describe shoplifting, the implication being that by virtue of one’s five fingers, a 100% discount has been obtained. Other similar expressions dealing with the hand’s role in theft are light-fingered, sticky-fingered, and itchy palm.

fly-by-night A temporary and usually unethical business; a poor credit risk; a person or enterprise of dubious reputation or questionable merit. This expression originally referred to a person who defrauded his creditors by hurriedly and furtively leaving town in the dead of night, thus flying (or fleeing) by night. In its usual context, however, fly-by-night is used adjectivally to describe a business which accepts orders and money but folds before delivering any goods or services, leaving both creditors and customers in the lurch. The expression is sometimes used in a more general sense to describe anyone or anything of uncertain character.

footpad A thief or other criminal who operates on foot. This expression refers to the padded shoes worn by a criminal to muffle his footsteps as he stealthily approaches a victim.

Roads in the neighborhood of the metropolis were infested by footpads or highwaymen. (Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, 1841)

hanky-panky See MISCHIEF.

hatchet man A hired assassin; any writer or speaker, especially a journalist, who manipulates words in order to ruin someone’s reputation. The former meaning dates from the mid-1800s when professional murderers actually carried hatchets.

Some of them are called hatchetmen. They carry a hatchet with the handle cut off. (G. B. Densmore, Chinese in California, 1880)

The current figurative meaning, in use since the mid-1900s, refers to character assassination rather than actual murder. Related phrases include hatchet job and hatchet work.

Exuberant hatchet jobs were … done on Foster Dulles because of his Wall Street connections. (Time, October 23, 1944)

horn-thumb A cutpurse; a pickpocket or purse-snatcher. This obsolete term derives from a thief’s practice of wearing a thimble of horn on thumb for protection against the edge of his knife. The term appears in the 17th-century play Bartholomew Fair:

I mean a child of the horn-thumb, a babe of booty, boy, a cut-purse.

jailbird A convict or prisoner; an ex-convict or ex-prisoner. This expression, derived from the iron cages to which inmates were formerly confined, usually refers to a prisoner who has spent the better part of his life behind bars.

The one thing dreaded by the old jailbird is work requiring bodily exertion. (Contemporary Review, August, 1883)

jaywalker A person who crosses a street without heeding the traffic laws; a presumptuous pedestrian. This expression, derived from the belligerent and defiant jaybird, is commonplace throughout the United States and Great Britain.

Realizing his mistake, [he] pulls back quickly, narrowly missing the jaywalker. (Police Review, November, 1972)

lully prigger A thief of the lowest, most despicable sort. The origin of this expression is unknown; however, lully prigger originally referred to a thief who stole wet clothing from a clothesline, and prigger alone meant ‘horse thief’ as early as the 16th century. Today this chiefly British phrase describes any thief.

plug-ugly A hoodlum, thug, miscreant, or larrikin; a gangster; a boisterous, uncouth, physically unattractive person. This term was first used as the self-assumed name of a 19th-century gang that terrorized the city of Baltimore:

The class of rowdies who originated this euphonious name … [said] it was derived from a short spike fastened in the toe of their boots, with which they kicked their opponents in a dense crowd, or, as they elegantly expressed it, “plugged them ugly.” (Times, November 4, 1876)

Although the gang is long since gone, the expression lives on in figurative contexts:

His friends were alternately the “plug-uglies” of Sixth Avenue and the dudes of Delmonico’s. (The Pall Mall Gazette, July 4, 1884)

scofflaw A person who disregards the law. This term is clearly a combination of scoff ‘mock, jeer’ and law. The expression, used during Prohibition for a patron of a speakeasy, now usually refers to someone who ignores traffic regulations or refuses to pay traffic fines.

skulduggery Deceitful or dishonest conduct; underhanded scheming. Derived from the Scottish skulduddery ‘illicit sexual intercourse; obscenity,’ skulduggery is, by extension, often used to describe fraudulent or surreptitious business practices.

The United States Courts … are now very busy affixing the penalties for violations of the national banking laws and for general skul-duggery in the management of institutions. (Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch, December 22, 1893)

tenderloin See LOCALITY.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.criminality - the state of being a criminal
guilt, guiltiness - the state of having committed an offense
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


noun illegality, crime, corruption, delinquency, wrongdoing, lawlessness, wickedness, depravity, culpability, villainy, sinfulness, turpitude The evils of unemployment have increased criminality in the inner cities.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


[ˌkrɪmɪˈnælɪtɪ] Ncriminalidad f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˌkrɪmɪˈnælɪti] n (= criminal activity) → criminalité f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˌkrɪmɪˈnælɪtɪ] ncriminalità f inv
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995
References in classic literature ?
"Your defence is ingenious and sound," said the Cadi, "and I must acquit you of criminality. Unfortunately, Allah has made me so that I must also take off your head - unless," he added, thoughtfully, "you offer me half of the gold; for He made me weak under temptation."
"Irregularity of Figure" means with us the same as, or more than, a combination of moral obliquity and criminality with you, and is treated accordingly.
He could do what he liked, with all his cleverness to help him, so long as I should continue to defer to the old tradition of the criminality of those caretakers of the young who minister to superstitions and fears.
His favourite subjects were church discipline, rites and ceremonies, apostolical succession, the duty of reverence and obedience to the clergy, the atrocious criminality of dissent, the absolute necessity of observing all the forms of godliness, the reprehensible presumption of individuals who attempted to think for themselves in matters connected with religion, or to be guided by their own interpretations of Scripture, and, occasionally (to please his wealthy parishioners) the necessity of deferential obedience from the poor to the rich--supporting his maxims and exhortations throughout with quotations from the Fathers: with whom he appeared to be far better acquainted than with the Apostles and Evangelists, and whose importance he seemed to consider at least equal to theirs.
Thus Jaffrey Pyncheon's inward criminality, as regarded Clifford, was, indeed, black and damnable; while its mere outward show and positive commission was the smallest that could possibly consist with so great a sin.
If the villain had stopped here, his case would have been sufficiently awful, but he blackened his guilt by proceeding to take me into custody, with a right of patronage that left all his former criminality far behind.
Baffled and beaten at every turn of Fortune's wheel, reacted upon time after time by his own malign plotting, the principal victim of his own criminality, Paulvitch was yet so blind as to imagine that his greatest happiness lay in a continuation of the plottings and schemings which had ever brought him and Rokoff to disaster, and the latter finally to a hideous death.
'Your belief, if you believe in the criminality of Mr.
Elizabeth's heart-rending eloquence failed to move the judges from their settled conviction in the criminality of the saintly sufferer.
It was only in that that he recognised his criminality, only in the fact that he had been unsuccessful and had confessed it.
He had almost as much as declared his conviction of her criminality last night: what mysterious cause withheld him from accusing her?
There was no fact in his history that had not been distorted into a criminality or a vice.