Crime Vocabulary in English

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Words shape our understanding of the world, and in the realm of criminal justice, they help define actions, individuals, and processes. In this article, you’ll delve into some key terms used in American criminal justice. This glossary will introduce you to some common words and phrases you may encounter in movies, books, news, or even in everyday conversations.

Exploring Crime Vocabulary: Insights into American Law and Society

Types of Crimes

The world of crime has a rich vocabulary that describes various illegal activities. Understanding these terms can give you a deeper understanding of law-related discussions in English.

  • Arson: the act of deliberately setting fire to buildings, vehicles, or other property; it's a serious crime.
  • Assault: physically attacking another person; can range from simple assault to aggravated assault, depending on the severity of harm.
  • Embezzlement: the act of dishonestly taking money that one has been trusted with, usually in a work context.
  • Kidnapping: the act of unlawfully taking and detaining a person against their will; often involves demands for ransom.
  • Murder:  the act of killing another person with intention.
  • Manslaughter: the act of killing another person without intention; considered less severe than murder.
  • Robbery: the act of taking something from another person by force or threat of force; usually involves personal confrontation.
  • Trespassing: the act of unlawfully entering another person's property.
  • Larceny: the act of unlawfully taking another person's personal property; it's a broader term that includes theft and robbery.
  • Forgery: the act of fraudulently making or altering a document or other object with the intent to deceive somebody.
  • Vandalism: the act of intentionally damaging or destroying property, usually public property like park benches or street signs.
  • Blackmail: the act of threatening to reveal damaging information about someone unless certain demands, often monetary, are met.
  • Smuggling: the act of illegally moving goods or people into or out of a country.

Now that we've explored some additional types of crimes, you should have a stronger grasp of crime vocabulary. Remember, understanding these terms is essential for grasping the context of many English language materials.

Types of Criminals

If you're studying English as a second language, you've probably come across words that describe various types of criminals. Let's explore some more to enhance your understanding of crime vocabulary.

  • Petty thief: a person who steals small items or commits minor crimes; typically, these crimes carry lesser punishments.
  • Burglar: an individual who illegally enters a building with the intention of committing a crime, usually stealing something.
  • Mugger: a person who attacks someone in order to rob them, especially in a public place.
  • Fraudster: a person who deceives others, usually to make money; the crime could be in the form of a scam, embezzlement, or identity theft.
  • Drug dealer: a person involved in the illegal trade of drugs.
  • Murderer: an individual who unlawfully kills another person; this is a serious crime with severe penalties.
  • Gangster: a member of a gang that is involved in organized crime; the crime can vary from drug trafficking to murder.
  • Pickpocket: a person who stealthily steals wallets, phones, or other valuables from others' pockets or bags, typically in a public place.
  • Blackmailer: an individual who threatens to reveal compromising or harmful information about a person unless certain demands, usually for money, are met.
  • Smuggler: a person who transports goods illegally into or out of a country; the goods could range from drugs, weapons to people.
  • Vandal: a person who deliberately destroys or damages public or private property.
  • Forger: a person who produces fraudulent copies of money, documents, artworks, or other items with the intent to deceive.

You have learned some terms related to different categories of criminals. Having a broad vocabulary in this area will help you understand English language books, movies, and news better.


Criminals Categories

As English language learners, expanding your vocabulary across diverse fields is crucial. In this segment, you’ll focus on different categories of criminals, which can offer intriguing insights into crime-related conversations and narratives in English.

  • Violent criminals: individuals who commit crimes that involve physical harm or force against others. This category includes murderers, assaulters, robbers, and kidnappers.
  • Property criminals: offenders who commit crimes against property, such as burglary, theft, arson, and vandalism.
  • White-collar criminals: typically associated with individuals in business or professional positions who engage in nonviolent, financially motivated crimes, such as embezzlement, fraud, insider trading, and tax evasion.
  • Organized crime members: involved in criminal organizations that operate for financial gain through illegal activities.
  • Cybercriminals: criminals who use computers and technology to commit crimes such as hacking, identity theft, online scams, and spreading malware.
  • Sex offenders: individuals convicted of sexual offenses, including rape, child molestation, and possession or distribution of child pornography.
  • Drug offenders: involved in the production, distribution, or sale of illegal drugs, as well as those who are convicted of drug possession.
  • Juvenile offenders: minors who commit crimes while under the age of majority, typically subject to different legal processes and systems.
  • Gang criminals: individuals affiliated with criminal gangs involved in various criminal activities such as drug trafficking, violence, and intimidation.
  • Repeat offenders: criminals with a history of multiple offenses and encounters with law enforcement.

With this crime vocabulary, you've broadened your understanding of the English language. Keep practicing these words and phrases, as they will significantly enhance your grasp of English content, especially those revolving around crime and law enforcement.

Criminal Justice Vocabulary Words

The legal and criminal justice system comes with its own set of terminology. This vocabulary is key to comprehending discussions about law enforcement in English.

  • Bail: a sum of money given to a court to secure a suspect's temporary release from custody; it ensures they will attend their court hearing.
  • Parole: the conditional release of a prisoner before the full sentence has been served; they must adhere to certain conditions.
  • Probation: a period of supervised living in the community, typically as an alternative to incarceration; the individual must follow certain rules and conditions.
  • Arraignment: a court proceeding where the defendant is formally charged with a crime and asked to respond by pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Acquittal: the legal judgment that officially and formally clears a defendant of criminal charges.
  • Warrant: a legal paper that a judge gives to law enforcement officers so they can make an arrest, search a place, or do something else.
  • Indictment: a formal charge or accusation of a major crime, usually brought by a grand jury.
  • Conviction: when a jury or judge in a court of law decides that someone is guilty of a crime and makes that decision official.
  • Sentence: the punishment assigned to a defendant found guilty by a court.
  • Appeal: when the case is looked at again, and the parties ask for a change to the official ruling.
  • Pardon: when the government says that a person is not guilty of a crime or other legal wrongdoing, as if the act never happened.

These criminal justice vocabulary words will further equip you to understand the intricacies of legal discussions in English.


Understanding the vocabulary used in the criminal justice field can help you navigate American cultural contexts, from movies to news reports, with greater ease. It can also provide insights into the American legal system and societal norms. Remember, language is a powerful tool that can aid you in comprehending complex subjects. Keep expanding your vocabulary to boost your language proficiency and overall understanding of the world around you.

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PromovaDec 15th, 2023
The article describes various types of criminals, such as burglars, fraudsters, drug dealers, murderers, gangsters, pickpockets, and more. This vocabulary is essential as it aids in understanding English language materials like books, movies, and news by providing a broader understanding of criminal classifications and activities.
Ben 🌎Dec 15th, 2023
what types of criminals does the article describe, and why is this vocabulary important