The most common crime and punishment vocabulary with audios for pronunciation. This word list covers crimes, criminals, punishment, court proceedings and other useful words to write and talk about the topic of crime. Practice the words with the vocabulary exercise at the bottom of the page.
Types of Crime: Major & Minor Crime Vocabulary
These crimes are divided into crimes which are considered serious and those that are not.
The list of crimes below are all nouns.
- abduction = taking someone against their will (kidnapping)
- arson = setting fire to a property
- assault = a physical attack
- burglary = illegal entry to a building with an intent to commit a crime
- child abuse = maltreatment of a child
- drug trafficking = importing illegal drugs
- false imprisonment = imprisoning a person against their will
- fraud = deception for personal or financial gain
- hacking = unauthorised access to data in a computer system
- hijacking = illegally getting control of an aircraft or vehicle
- human trafficking =
- murder (homicide USA)
- premeditated murder = murder that is intentional (planned before hand)
- unpremeditated murder – murder that is not intentional (not planned)
- manslaughter – unintentional murder (synonym for unpremeditated murder)
- attempted murder = planning to kill another person
- patricide = killing one’s own father
- genocide = systematic killing of a race or religious group
- euthanasia = killing someone for their benefit
- organised crime = crime by an organised gang or organisation
- smuggling = illegal import or export
- terrorism = unlawful violence or threat with political aims
- white collar crime = financially motivated non-violent crime by a worker
Minor Crimes / Offences
- pick pocketing = taking from another person’s pockets
- shoplifting = taking products from a shop without paying for them
- traffic offences =breaking the rules of the road and driving
- drunk driving = drinking whilst under the influence of alcohol
- jay walking = crossing the road at an designated spot
- running a red light = going through traffic lights when they are red
- speeding = driving over the speed limit
- vandalism = deliberate destruction or damage to a building
Vocabulary for Criminals
This list shows the person relating to the crime (the perpetrator of the crime).
- crime = criminal
- murder = murderer
- theft = thief
- trafficking = trafficker
- hijacking = hijacker
- terrorism = terrorist
- smuggling = smuggler
- shoplifting = shoplifter
- vandalism = vandal
- teenage criminal/ juvenile delinquent
Types of Punishment Vocabulary
- the death penalty (capital punishment) = punishment of death
- a prison sentence (imprisonment) = imprisonment
- life in prison
- 10 years
- 6 months
- a suspended sentence = delaying of a sentence
- forfeiture = property is taken away (confiscated)
- hospital order = to confine someone to hospital under arrest
- a fine = to pay money as a punishment for an offence
- house arrest = imprisoned in one’s own house rather than in prison
- to suspend a license = with holding a person’s right to use their driving license for a period of time
- to revoke a license = to take away someone’s driving license
- non-custodial sentence = a sentence which is not done in prison
- community service = punishment by doing community work
Other Types of Punishment
This refers to punishment commonly used by schools and parents.
- detention = to stay in school after hours for punishment
- to give lines = punishment where a child must write the same sentence again and again
- isolation = to be kept apart from others as a punishment
- grounding = to be unable to go outside home as a punishment
- scolding = an angry reprimand
- corporal punishment = physical punishment from a teacher or headteacher at school
- judge = the person who controls the court proceedings
- jury = a group of independent people who decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty
- justice = fairness or court law
- trial = legal proceedings to judge whether someone is guilty of a crime
- court = the place where the trial is held
- defendant = the accused person: the individual or group being accused in court of a crime
- prosecutor = the lawyer against the accused person
- defense = the lawyer protecting the accused person
- witness = a person who sees an event happen
- evidence = facts or information supporting the truth
- proof = evidence supporting a claim
- hearsay = rumour / unsubstantiated information
- guilty = not innocent as judged by a court of law
- innocent = found not guilty of a crime
- to be found guilty = the court decided that the person did commit the crime
- conviction / verdict = formal sentence of a court
- circumstances of the crime = a condition or situation relating to a crime
- extenuating circumstances = a condition that makes the crime or mistake less serious and more understandable
- take into consideration = should be thought about carefully
- circumstantial evidence = something that connects a person indirectly to the crime (for example, a finger print at a crime scene but no actual hard evidence or witness)
- maximum / minimum sentence = highest penalty / lowest penalty
- a harsh punishment = hard, strict penalty
- penalty / punishment are synonyms but penalty is often used for both minor offences and major crimes.
Other Useful Crime & Punishment Vocabulary
- crime is prevalent = there is a lot of crime
- armed police = police who carry guns
- to deter (n = deterrent) = to put someone off from doing something
- discrimination = unjust treatment
- to be soft on crime = not to have harsh or strict punishments
- repeat offender = a person who has committed a crime or offence more than once
- serial criminals = criminals who repeatedly commit the same crime
- diminished responsibility = when someone is not in a state to be considered responsible for their own actions
- rehabilitation = to restore someone through education or therapy
- reintegrate back into society = help someone return into society
- peer pressure = pressure from friends or colleagues
- role models = people whose behaviour should be copied and respected
- mimicking violent behaviour = to copy aggressive actions
Practice Exercises with Crime Vocabulary
Complete the sentences using one or more words either from the above lists or from other vocabulary relating to this topic. The sentence must be grammatically correct once you have added the right word(s).
- The ………………. is the strongest deterrent against crime.
- The number of ……………….. is on the rise due to the impact of peer pressure at school and violent movies shown on TV. Teenagers are prone to ……………. aggressive behaviour.
- All people accused of a crime should be given a fair ……………. in a ………… of law.
- People who are convicted a murder from only ………………………. evidence should not receive the death penalty.
- The motives of a crime should always be taken into consideration. For example. there is a significant difference in the character of a person who commits ……………… murder and one who commits accidental murder.
- A ………….. sentence is more humane than capital punishment.
- Punishment should be the last resort. Instead criminals should be …………………….
- People who commit ……….. crimes, such as traffic offences, should have their ……………….. revoked.
- Famous people, such as movie stars, should set a good ………… and ensure that they are good …………….. for young people to follow.
- …………… and the right to a fair ……………. should be the right of all citizens.
- Parents who inflict ……………… punishment on their children are showing children that …………….. is an acceptable way to deal with problems.
- Prison does not rehabilitate criminals, it only …………. them from society. …………….. service and rehabilitation is a better way to avoid criminals becoming ………………….
- death penalty (the answer can’t be “capital punishment” because it doesn’t use the article “the”)
- juvenile delinquents / mimic
- trial / court
- minor / licenses
- example / role models
- Justice / trial
- corporal / violence
- removes / Community / repeat offenders
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