Delve into the captivating realm where language meets crime with these compelling English idioms related to criminal activities.

If you enjoy detective books or TV shows, you’ll appreciate our compilation of 10 English idioms related to crime! You might have come across some of these expressions in movies or on television. If not, let’s explore this useful vocabulary together so that you can comprehend 80%—not just 50%—of discussions about crime and criminals in English. Let’s begin!

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To cook the books

Definition: To falsify information in a company’s financial records, presenting fraudulent financial reports.
Example: One of the directors had been cooking the books, and the company had been losing
money for years.

To pull a fast one

Meaning: to cheat someone
Example: He was trying to pull a fast one when he told you he’d paid.

Cat burglar

Definition: To deceive or defraud someone.
Example: He is a cat burglar, who only steals from apartments in high buildings.

Stool pigeon

Definition: A person, often a criminal or government operative, who clandestinely provides information about others to the police.
Example: I would have never thought he had been a stool pigeon for so many years.

Put behind bars

Definition: To incarcerate someone, symbolized by the notion of putting them behind prison bars.
Example: The bank robbers have been finally put behind bars.

Blow the whistle

Definition: To inform the police about a crime.
Example: The gangs were getting very bad. It was time to blow the whistle.

Go straight

Definition: To start adhering to the law, ceasing criminal activities.
Example: After Ben was arrested, he promised his mother he would go straight.

Do a runner

Definition: To escape without settling payment for a product or service.
Example: The teenagers did a runner when the cab stopped, leaving the driver with an unpaid bill.


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What English idioms related to crime are part of your vocabulary? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section.

What is your English level?

Find out your A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 level of English with our quick, free online test.