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In English, there are a large number of words to describe someone who steals things from people - particularly relating to the method which these criminals use to take the items. There are five very common words to describe such people: "burglar", "robber", "mugger", "pickpocket" and "thief".

Take some time to dive into these other pages after completing this lesson: Words ending with the suffix less, Common Acronyms Social Media SMS & “In the office” or “at the office”.

Burglar[edit | edit source]

Someone who breaks in / forces his/her way into a building so as to steal something. It could be for example a home, office or factory. Usually, there is no intended violence directly towards people. The verb used to describe a burglar in the process of stealing something is "to burgle sth", which is more common in British English and "to burglarize sth", seen in American English.

Robber[edit | edit source]

Someone who threatens violence so that he/she can steal something from someone. If the threatened person does not permit the robber to take what the robber wants, then the robber will be violent so that he/she can take what he/she wants from the victim. "to rob sb" is the verb describing a robber "at work".

Mugger[edit | edit source]

Someone who uses violence without any warning to make it possible / easier to steal something from someone. It could be a criminal hitting someone on the head then stealing something from that person. "to mug sb" is the verb describing the violence and stealing done by a mugger.

Pickpocket[edit | edit source]

Someone who steals from someone’s pocket, coat or bag without that person realising that he/she is having something stolen. The thing stolen is directly with/on the victim, not somewhere else such as on a table. The term "pickpocket" originally comes from describing someone who very quickly and with almost no force pulling something - i.e. "picking" - something from someone's pocket. "to pickpocket sb" describes stealing by pickpockets.

Thief[edit | edit source]

This is a general term for someone who steals something without threatening violence. Burglars (usually) and pickpockets can also be classified as thieves (the plural of ”thief”). Someone who takes someone’s wallet from a desk by just walking through a door is a thief, but not a pickpocket or a burglar. The verb for this action is "to thieve sth from sb".

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