survival criminal


Senior Member
Hungary, Hungarian
Hi there,

I'm not sure if this turn of phrase exists, I tried to coin it, though.
- A small time criminal who steals and robs to survive and to get by is a survival criminal.

Any ideas?

Thank you!
  • Hi Ego,
    I don't think that the term survival criminal exists and, although it makes sense with your explanation, I'm not certain I would understand it with no explanation at all. But I can't think of any universally understood idioms to express this idea.

    The first thing that came to my mind as a short and unambiguous way to express this idea was thief by necessity. I did find several examples of it used in this sense. Here's one in particular from a writeup of Les Miserables (source):
    "Les Miserables" will open audience members' eyes to the struggles of Jean Valjean, a thief-by-necessity - stealing bread to feed his family...

    Others might come forth with better suggestions, though.
    That would be a subsistence criminal - along the lines of a subsistence farmer (an expression drummed into my head long ago by several Geography teachers).
    Not that I have ever heard of a subsistence criminal, you know, but I think the concept is right and at least it is borrowing from something familiar.
    There are a very small number of Google examples for "subsistence criminal" and "subsistence thief".
    Enough to show it is not original, but few enough to demonstrate that it has never caught on :)