Crime and Punishment Vocabulary with Pronunciation

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.

Major Crimes

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 = illegally transporting people, usually for slave labour or commercial sexual exploitation
  • 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 = driving whilst under the influence of alcohol
    • jay walking = crossing the road at an undesignated 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 = withholding 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

Court Language

  • 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).

  1. The ………………. is the strongest deterrent against crime.
  2. 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.
  3. All people accused of a crime should be given a fair ……………. in a ………… of law.
  4. People who are convicted a murder from only ………………………. evidence should not receive the death penalty.
  5. 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.
  6. A ………….. sentence is more humane than capital punishment.
  7. Punishment should be the last resort. Instead criminals should be  …………………….
  8. People who commit ……….. crimes, such as traffic offences, should have their ……………….. revoked.
  9. Famous people, such as movie stars, should set a good ………… and ensure that they are good …………….. for young people to follow.
  10. …………… and the right to a fair ……………. should be the right of all citizens.
  11. Parents who inflict ……………… punishment on their children are showing children that …………….. is an acceptable way to deal with problems.
  12. Prison does not rehabilitate criminals, it only …………. them from society.   …………….. service and rehabilitation is a better way to avoid criminals becoming ………………….
  1. death penalty (the answer can’t be “capital punishment” because it doesn’t use the article “the”)
  2. juvenile delinquents / mimic
  3. trial / court
  4. circumstantial
  5. premeditated
  6. life
  7. rehabilitated
  8. minor / licenses
  9. example / role models
  10. Justice / trial
  11. corporal / violence
  12. removes / Community / repeat offenders



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  1. Hey Liz. This was a great help, I learned a lot of new things which is definitely a help for my exam

  2. Thank you ma’am. There is a lot to learn

  3. What is the difference between Convict and Sentence?

  4. Manpreet kaur bhullar says

    Your site is very useful mam for us thanks post new things

  5. Ram Singh says

    Superb, good job

  6. i found this page and topic very interesting..As a matter of fact i have learnt lots of vocab i havent heard in the last 40 yrs.KUDOS

  7. Mr. teacher says

    Thanks a lot! It’s been very useful to prepare my class. Your work is great!

  8. I love you LIZ! you truly are a blessing. Thank you for your generosity and benevolence!

  9. I definitely enjoyed your lesson. Thanks Liz

  10. I enjoy it. Thanks

  11. hi Liz,
    in this portion of vocabulary you can also add words like:
    felon-felony, sadist, turncoat, traitor, heinous crime, renegade

    also in educational vocabulary words like;
    freshers/freshman – 1st year college student
    sophomore – 2nd year college student
    veteran – final year student

  12. sowmiya c s says

    Hi Liz,
    why there is no explanation for ‘human trafficking’ in the above given list?? Thank you so much for all your wonderful works. Keep going..

  13. Hii lizz..
    What does vanadlism means ??

  14. Enkhjargal says

    It is really interesting. Very useful for students.

  15. Excellent resource!

  16. Hi Liz,
    Please heck the meanings of drunk driving and jay walking. Drunk driving is driving under the influence of drinks. But the meaning does not say that. Also, jay walking. It should be walking at an undesignated spot and not designated spot.

  17. Abul Hossain says

    You are really wonderful and co-operative teacher. Your teaching technique will be helpful to all the IELTS student. Thank you very much. y

  18. hello liz
    i am following your website from few days i am glad to follow your website, but i am unable to improve my writing skills especially in writing task 2 mainly i am lagging in vocabulary and sentence structure. my exam in a week to go so please consider my request and suggest me to improve my writing skills

  19. Hi ! Can I paraphrase the words “teenage crime” with “juvenile delinquency” ?
    Thank you in advance!

  20. Good afternoon, dear Liz! I’ve got a question. Why is it written “the motives of a crime should always be TAKING into consideration…” in the exercising (sent. 5). I can’t make heads or tails of it) Explain it to me, please!

  21. Hi! Liz This is didar. I’m very pleased to get your topics and video….Where can i get answer speaking part 2… please Answer me?

  22. hi elizabeth liz, i am amanpreet singh, i love you’re website and i really appreciate you for helping a lot for ielts exam.i love you’re kindness and smartness.if i get a chance i really want to meet you and make you my best friend.thank you.i wish you all the best for further giving knowledge to students for ielts and wish you best of luck for life.goodbye see you.ha ha ha ha ha happy happy happy happy all the time because i always true love and believe in “God”.God is the owner of the world.

  23. Ma’am.
    You’re really Awesome. Great.
    I love the way you speak , Your charming smile.
    I love you.
    You’re doing a wonderful job.
    May God fulfill your dreams and wishes.
    God bess you.
    Thank you.

  24. Rahul Kadam says

    In listening test I’m not able to grasp some difficult words so what can i do to improve that?

  25. Hi dear Liz my name is Christine!i really appreciate you!could you say me please gow could i Copy your lessons?

  26. I really appreciate your effort. I am trying to get Band 8. Do you think the materials you have presented are still useful for people are targeting this score?

  27. Khan Mehedi says

    Thank you very much for your fruitful tips and lesson and I become a fan are requested to take love with respect from Bangladesh by khan Mehedi .

  28. Samanpreet kaur says

    My xam was on 10th oct..really in tension..

  29. I mean scholarship by reduction fee

  30. Hi Liz
    finally i received my ielts certificate which has 6.0 band score with your lessons and useful comments.What do you think can i take reduction fee with that result in university degree?

  31. I m abdul hameed.frist for all my related ielts friends i hops you are good afterthat my very nice teacher liz you are good teacher of ietls and i keep truest you will help from ielts exam than i will take exam next month.your any student do prepration ielts with me my skype id. hameedKarachi

  32. Muthu Manikandan says

    Hi Liz,
    Your teaching methods are really awesome and one can easily grasp. It is very useful for everyone who writes IELTS. I got 6 in first attempt by going through your website for last two weeks only. Thank you for your website and teaching.
    Muthu Manikandan

    • Well done!. Band 6 is a good result. I’m glad my blog was useful 🙂

      • Muthu Manikandan says

        Thanks a lot. I was really struggling in all areas of the test especially listening. I wanted to thank you with my result as I was confident in my result after going through the website 🙂

  33. That’s really nice, you’re a world-class teacher.

  34. Dear Liz,

    I have already gone through and listened the audio too. I know many words but giving the meaning for it is too great! I have learnt a lot from those vocabs!

    Thanking you so much.


  35. Dear teacher,
    I’d like to ask some questions that make me brainstorm.
    What is the difference between ” traffic warden” and ” traffic police”?
    Could you explain it to me, please?
    Thanks a million!

    • A traffic warden is a uniformed official working with parking offences – not part of the police. The traffic police are police who work with traffic offences, traffic accidents and any crime involving traffic.
      All the best

  36. Hi , Liz
    I am a new student for ielts preparation
    I do have only basic English
    I have started an ielts course 2 weeks ago but it’s not enough to emprove my English for university
    I have relised that your methods to explain vocabulary is fantastic
    And easy
    I would like to ask you PLZ if I can contact you private about teaching me
    Thank u in advance and sorry for any mistake that I committed

    • I wish I had the time but unfortunately, I don’t have time for private lessons this year. There are quite a lot of websites with free English grammar and vocabulary. See my useful websites page in the IELTS Extra section. I’m glad you’re thinking about your level of English – it is critical for success in IELTS.
      All the best

  37. you are a wonderful teacher , really ,thank you a lot from Iraq.
    how could i use these vocabs in the essay writing or speaking section ?

  38. It’s really useful words not just for IELTS but for general speaking English. May I thank you Liz and we hope you carry on with this way to let us clamb this mountain.
    We owe you
    Best wishes

  39. Dear Liz,
    This is my great pleasure to express how appreciate I’m about all your teaching method, It was perfect, easy and faster to comprehend by everyone else. And since when I have started to got your videos my experience and my abilities improve better related to English Language. Although I cannot express how excited I felt about meeting you as my English teacher, I’m extremely lucky to have an amazing teacher like you that you always influence me positively to reach my future goals! thank you Liz and GOD will reward you.

    • I’m so pleased my lessons are useful 🙂

    • I have totally agree from the bottom of my heart. The way you teach, explain, your smile everything I feel that you are in front of me and teaching. I have paid USD 250 before my exams. I have kept asked the teacher to give tips, but nothing had given. Luckily I have got to know your blog WOW! too good! I have learnt now how to answer T/F/NG and Y/N/NG. I have paid USD 24 for your writing task 2 lesson, thoroughly enjoyed. I am going to follow exactly your way. You are a wonderful teacher who knows the subject deeply and deliver the lesson for the students. GOD BLESS YOU to do more and more for us.

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