Difference Between Larceny and Theft

Main Difference – Larceny vs Theft   

Larceny and theft are crimes that involve taking a property unlawfully, without the intention of returning it. The main difference between larceny and theft is that theft includes the stealing of tangible, intangible, and intellectual property whereas larceny involves the stealing of tangible property.

Larceny vs Theft – Meaning and Usage

Theft occurs when an individual takes the property of another without permission, with the intention of permanently depriving that person of the property.  Larceny also has a similar meaning and is often used as a synonym for theft. Larceny can be defined as the unauthorized taking and removal of the personal property of another by an individual who intends to deprive the owner of it permanently; a crime against the right of possession. In legal systems of many countries, larceny and theft are merged into one. However, larceny is an offense in some states of US and Australia.

There are four main elements in a larceny charge, and all these elements have to be proved in order to support a larceny charge.

  1. The property must belong to someone else.
  2. It was taken and carried away unlawfully.
  3. It was taken without the owner’s consent.
  4. The offender had the intention of depriving the owner of the property permanently.

It is also important to note that theft is a generic term that can be used to refer to all types of property thefts including larceny. Burglary, embezzlement, looting, shoplifting, fraud, etc. also fall under this theft.

Theft can be a theft of tangible, intangible, or intellectual property. The term larceny is mostly used for the theft of tangible property. This is the main difference between larceny and theft.

Unlike other crimes where seriousness is indicated by degrees (first degree, second degree, etc.), theft and larceny are divided into two types based on their seriousness: petty theft/larceny and grand theft/larceny. Petty theft is a misdemeanor crime where a person steals a property valued at a smaller price. Grand theft involves stealing property of high value.Difference Between Larceny and Theft

Difference Between Larceny and Theft   


Larceny is the theft of personal property.

Theft is a generic term to which larceny also belongs.


Larceny involves tangible property.

Theft involves tangible, intangible and intellectual property.


Larceny is mostly a legal term.

Theft is a general term.


Larceny is not as commonly used as theft.

Theft is more commonly used than larceny.Difference Between Larceny and Theft - infographic

Image Courtesy:

“The caught thief servant” by Constant Wauters – hampel-auctions.com, by Charles Wauters (1809–1869) (according to the auction house, probably wrongly attributed due to signature C. Wauters ), (Public Domain)

About the Author: de Silva

N. de Silva is a graduate, specializing in Sociology. She also works as a part time language educator. With an immense love for language, literature, and psychology she aspires to be a writer who can blend in subject material with linguistic mastery