English

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Etymology

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From Middle English thef, theef, þef, from Old English þēof, from Proto-West Germanic *þeub, from Proto-Germanic *þeubaz. Spelling from Northern England, where /eːo/ became [iə] rather than [eː]. (Compare the spelling of deep from Old English deop.)

Pronunciation

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Noun

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thief (plural thieves)

  1. One who carries out a theft.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:thief
  2. One who steals another person's property, especially by stealth and without using force or violence.
    • 1580, Thomas Tusser, “74. A Digression.”, in Fiue Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie: [], London: [] Henrie Denham [beeing the assigne of William Seres] [], →OCLC, stanza 4:
      Take heed to false harlots, and more, ye wot what. / If noise ye heare, / Looke all be cleare: / Least drabs doe noie thee, / And theeues destroie thee.
  3. (obsolete) A waster in the snuff of a candle.
    • 1640, Joseph Hall, Divine Light:
      But hear you, my Worthy Brethren: do not you, where you see a thief in the candle, call presently for an extinguisher []

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