The word ‘shoplifting’ is first heard of in England in the seventeenth century, in 1673.1 Later, in 1680, Kirkman (Head and Kirkman, 1928) uses the word, saying, ‘Towards Night these Houses are throng’d with People of all sorts … Shoplifters, Foilers, Bulkers.’ The term ‘shoplifting’ was also used officially at this time. The preamble to the Act of Parliament 10 William III c. 12 (1698) states, ‘The Crime of stealing Goods privately out of Shops and Warehouses [is] commonly called shoplifting.’ From these references we can confidently state that the term ‘shoplifting’ dates from the seventeenth century, and that by the end of that century the word was well established in the English language. Contrary to popular supposition, the word was not recently coined to describe a recent phenomenon. The fact that the word has been in existence since the seventeenth century argues for the existence of the crime from this time onwards at least, although, as has been stated above, there is every reason to suppose that shoplifting has been in existence as a crime form as long as shops themselves.2
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