The word crime is derived from the latin root cernō, meaning "I decide, I give judgment". Originally the Latin word crīmen meant "charge" or "cry of distress." The Ancient Greek word krima (κρίμα), from which the Latin cognate derives, typically referred to an intellectual mistake or an offense against the community, rather than a private or moral wrong.
In 13th century English crime meant "sinfulness", according to etymonline.com. The glossing was probably brought to England as Old French crimne (12th century form of Modern French crime), from Latin crimen (in the genitive case: criminis). In Latin, crimen could have signified any one of the following: "charge, indictment, accusation; crime, fault, offense".
The word may derive from the Latin cernere - "to decide, to sift" (see crisis, mapped on Kairos and Kronos). But Ernest Klein (citing Karl Brugmann) rejects this and suggests *cri-men, which originally would have meant "cry of distress". Thomas G. Tucker suggests a root in "cry" words and refers to English plaint, plaintiff, and so on. The meaning "offense punishable by law" dates from the late 14th century. The Latin word is glossed in Old English by facen, also "deceit, fraud, treachery, . Crime wave first attested in 1893 in American English.
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