In etymological terms criminology is a science about crime. The word criminology derives from Latin words "crimen" which means crime and Greek word "logos" which means science or discipline.

In 1879 Topinard defined criminology as a science which researches committed criminal acts.

Mergen defined criminology as an independent, autonomous, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary science that can be divided into:

1. theoretical criminology
2. descriptive criminology, and
3. clinical criminology.


Sociology uses the terms deviance,deviant behavior, asocial behavior, antisocial behavior and many other terms, psychology uses the term abnormal behavior, while criminology uses terms: delinquency, criminal behavior, criminality, violent or sexual offense and many other terminologies specific to criminology. Every science has an own language, and that language are terms. In order to study criminology in a proper manor, students must learn and understand the academic scientific discipline terminologies.
Most common terms and definitions used in criminology are listed as follows:

Definition of delinquency

Delinquency is a violation of the norms of a particular culture. Not every conduct is a crime, but only that behavior which is dangerous for a specific society.

Sociologists Jack E. Bynum and William E. Thompson define juvenile delinquency as a conduct which violates the law only when committed by children.

Scientific discipline of criminal Law defines juvenile delinquency as an act in violation of the criminal code, committed or omitted by person under age of 18.
Definition of criminality

Criminality is a totality of all crimes that occur in a particular region and time period.

Definition of penology

Penology studies the execution of criminal sanctions, uses criminological knowledge about perpetrator and provides feedback about the success of penal treatment.

Definition of penology provided by encyclopedia Britannica: Penology is a research area of criminology, which researches formation, origin and development of penalty, its application and impact on convicts. Research object of penology is execution of criminal sanctions, the status of the offender and post-penal treatment. In short terms, object of research in penology is special prevention. Penology acts "post delictum" or after the criminal act.

Definition of victimology

Victimology is the scientific discipline which studies the crime victims, all other victims, victimization processes, types of victimization's, relationship of a victim with the perpetrator, and the effect of criminal justice system on the victim. It developed itself out of criminology as the specialized scientific discipline. In the last 20 years, victimology has developed own research methodology, defined the research objects. Today it has all attributes to become an independent and autonomous science. Many academics of criminal law and criminology study have contributed to victimology in terms of better understanding of victim behavior, relations of a victim with a perpetrator, effects of secondary victimization through criminal case trial and readiness of a victim to report a crime. On the theoretical level victimology is thought as an academic discipline within criminology or criminal law study in the bachelors or master's college programs and sometimes as an independent academic discipline within PhD studies of criminal justice, sociology, social pedagogy or through interdisciplinary police study programs on some universities. In short terms, victimology by the definition is the study of why certain people become victims of crime. Victimology is also the study of how crime or other harmful events impacts the very same victims. The word victim today has a broad use and it used to signify various categories of victims: cancer victims, accident victims, victims of injustice, crime victims and others.

Theoretical criminology includes the objects and methods of research. Descriptive criminology includes all phenomenological disciplines, while clinical criminology includes therapy, prognosis, diagnosis and profiling.

Kaiser defined criminology as a systematized totality of knowledge that is gathered trough experiences about crimes, criminals, asocial behaviors (predelinquent) and about the control of these behaviors.

M. Singer defined criminology as an empiric science that researches natural and social facts about a delinquency, delinquents, victims, social environment and a crime in general sense.

Other authors define the term of "criminology" descriptively as a science that researches crimes, breaking of law, delinquents etc.

There is no way this could pass anywhere, because there is no law in any country which is the same with those in other countries nor the objects of research in criminology are only antisocial behaviors, but also asocial (predelinquent) behaviors like gambling, prostitution, alcoholism etc. Criminology as a scientific discipline is a transnational, while forbidden behaviors proscribed by penal codes and other laws represent a small portion of research objects in criminology.

Why is that? Those definitions were usually given by legal experts (lawyers, judges, prosecutors) i.e. scientists who finished the Law school and later obtained their PhD. in Criminal Law. They define the criminology from their theoretical point of view, which is to unfortunately to narrow.

Theory is a possible explanation of something. In criminology, theory is an explanation of criminal or deviant acts. The theory can explain crime for a large social, ethnic or subcultural unit (macro theory) or smaller social unit (micro theory).

Theory must:
1. follow logical consistency i.e. must have a sense,
2. have an acceptable reach of explanation i.e. must be applicable on a large number of cases,
3. be precise, detail and concise,
4. and to be valid.

Some authors define criminology as a scientific study of crimes and criminals. This definition of criminology is valid, but misses other research objects. Although criminology researches etiology and phenomenology of crimes, it also researches criminals, victims, social units (micro and macro) as well as asocial behaviors such as alcoholism, gambling, prostitution and crime in general terms as a transnational phenomena.

Criminology is a set of knowledge's regarding delinquency and crime as a social phenomena. Criminological objective is to develop set of principles and knowledge's regarding application of law, crime prevention and repression.

Criminology is described as a scientific discipline which studies crime, response of the society on criminal acts, criminal behavior, criminals, execution of sanctions, crime prevention, crime repression and law enforcement.  Criminology researches variety of sociological, biological and psychological causes of crime and other non-legal aspects of crime.

Criminal law theory defines crime as an act committed or omitted in violation of law. Other definitions describe crime as an unlawful activity.Popular definition of criminology describes criminology as "the scientific study of making of laws, the breaking of laws and reactions to the breaking of laws."

Methods of theoretical criminology