What Is the Difference Between Larceny & Theft?

By Demetrius Sewell - Updated May 31, 2017
Car thief, car theft

When an individual steals something of value from a person or business, the term theft is used. However, all thefts aren’t the same. For example, robbery involves taking property by force or threat. Burglary consists of breaking into property. Another example includes the terms larceny and theft. Theft and larceny are also sometimes used interchangeably to describe stolen property.


Larceny consists of a type of theft. Larceny involves an individual taking property such as goods or money without the owner’s permission for personal use. Theft entails taking property from an owner without consent or permission with intent to use or sale. For example, a person who steals products from a store and tries to sell them later commits theft. However, if a person steals property for personal use commits larceny.


Theft differs from larceny in many ways. For example, the term theft doesn’t describe one type of property crime, but many different crimes. Therefore, theft is a generic term describing all property crimes—including larceny. Also, theft also involves stealing tangible and non-tangible objects. Larceny crimes encompass taking the property with the intention of depriving an owner of the property forever. The following is an act of larceny: when a person takes a laptop left in a library without the owner’s permission.


Larceny includes two types: petty and grand larceny. Petty larceny consists of a misdemeanor crime where an individual takes property valued at a small amount. For example, a criminal stealing a cellular phone valued at $99 may be charged with petty larceny. Grand larceny involves stealing property with a higher value. Typically, stolen property valued over $100 describes grand larceny. If convicted, a criminal guilty of petty theft may go to jail. However, a criminal convicted of grand larceny may receive prison time.

Theft can also be divided into petty and grand thefts. Unlike larceny, theft includes many types of theft. For example, robbery, identity theft, burglary, extortion, embezzlement and fraud are examples of theft.


Distinguishing different types of theft entails defining the methods, means and type of crimes committed. For instance, stealing money from an employer would be considered embezzlement. Larceny only involves the stealing of personal property such as stereos, money or jewelry. Nevertheless, larceny doesn't include taking other property like real estate.

About the Author

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.

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