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mur·​der ˈmər-dər How to pronounce murder (audio)
plural murders
: the crime of unlawfully and unjustifiably killing a person
an attempted murder
specifically, law : such a crime committed under circumstances defined by statute
Under Minnesota law, third-degree murder is defined as causing the death of a person "by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind" without regard for life or intent to kill. A conviction on this count carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. Second-degree murder, according to Minnesota law, is charged when the defendant intentionally kills someone, albeit without preparing to do so ahead of time. (Premeditation would warrant a first-degree murder charge). Kaylee McGhee
: something very difficult or dangerous
the traffic was murder
carrying the luggage was murder on my back
: something outrageous or blameworthy
getting away with murder
: a flock of crows
There's a reason the proper term for a flock of them is a murder of crows, and it's not because we like having them around.Jeffrey Kluger


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murdered; murdering ˈmər-d(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce murder (audio) ; murders

transitive verb

: to kill (a person) unlawfully and unjustifiably with premeditated malice
He was accused/convicted of murdering the missing hiker.
The missing hiker was found murdered.
sometimes used figuratively
My father will murder me [=be very angry] when he finds out I dented the car.
: to slaughter mercilessly : slay
bombs murdered innocent civilians
: to put an end to : destroy
… the same man who, if ever he were in power, would … murder truth, freedom, and art …Budd Schulberg
: tease, torment
murder'd this poor heart of mine …Shakespeare
: to spoil or ruin : botch, mangle
a writer who murders the English language
The band murdered that song.
: to defeat badly
The football team murdered their opponents 35-3.

intransitive verb

: to commit murder
a charge of armed assault with intent to murder
They murdered for money …Leonora LaPeter Anton
Choose the Right Synonym for murder

kill, slay, murder, assassinate, dispatch, execute mean to deprive of life.

kill merely states the fact of death caused by an agency in any manner.

killed in an accident
frost killed the plants

slay is a chiefly literary term implying deliberateness and violence but not necessarily motive.

slew thousands of the Philistines

murder specifically implies stealth and motive and premeditation and therefore full moral responsibility.

convicted of murdering a rival

assassinate applies to deliberate killing openly or secretly often for political motives.

terrorists assassinated the Senator

dispatch stresses quickness and directness in putting to death.

dispatched the sentry with one bullet

execute stresses putting to death as a legal penalty.

executed by lethal gas

Examples of murder in a Sentence

Noun She was accused of murder. the mass murder of civilians in wartime a string of unsolved murders Traffic is murder this time of day. Verb He was arrested and accused of murdering his wife. His wife was found murdered. a dictator who is responsible for murdering thousands of innocent people The band murdered that song. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Michael Ray Schlicht is believed to be an early victim of infamous serial killer Randy Kraft -- who was sentenced to death in 1989 for the brutal murders of 16 young men in Orange County between 1972 and 1983 -- according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, 29 Nov. 2023 Incorporation into the Babyn Yar project would not only have memorialized the murders of the psychiatric patients but also lifted a decades-long stigma. Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Nov. 2023 Ayoub specifically cited the murder of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume in Illinois last month. Rudy Chinchilla, NBC News, 27 Nov. 2023 The filmmakers met with tribal representatives to understand Osage traditions and how the murders decimated families and weakened a community and culture. Valli Herman, Los Angeles Times, 27 Nov. 2023 Rojas-Moreno is charged with murder, with enhancements of committing the murder in the commission of a kidnapping and for the personal use of a weapon, the district attorney's office said. Phil Helsel, NBC News, 18 Nov. 2023 At his trial last year, Ortiz was convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Andrea Acosta, ABC News, 17 Nov. 2023 Nicholas was arrested and charged with the murder of Sarah Yarborough. Lauren Clark, CBS News, 17 Nov. 2023 Kaitlin Armstrong sentenced in murder of romantic rival Moriah Wilson… continue reading here. Fox News Staff, Fox News, 17 Nov. 2023
The analysis, which looked at how women in their 20s and early 30s fared across generations, found that women born after 1981 are more likely to be at risk of suicide, death in childbirth and being murdered than young women in previous generations. Anne Flaherty, ABC News, 30 Nov. 2023 Other releases had included a greater number of hostages, who were taken as part of the Hamas terror attacks on Oct. 7, in which at least 1,200 Israelis were murdered. Anders Hagstrom, Fox News, 29 Nov. 2023 Earlier this week, Chauvin, 47 — the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd — was stabbed in an Arizona prison. Nicholas Rice, Peoplemag, 26 Nov. 2023 Derek Chauvin, the officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, was stabbed in prison on Friday. Josh Feldman, NBC News, 26 Nov. 2023 The violence in Bel-Air last winter ended with at least 148 people murdered or missing and more than 60 homes burned to the ground, according to the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH). Jason Motlagh, Rolling Stone, 26 Nov. 2023 Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, was said to have been stabbed in an Arizona prison. Melissa Kirsch Andrew Lavallee Melissa Clark, New York Times, 25 Nov. 2023 In a 77-minute spree, a California man with a 9 mm Uzi murdered 21 people and wounded more than a dozen at a McDonalds near the Mexican border. James Bandler, ProPublica, 21 Nov. 2023 And more than half of all Black women who are murdered in the country are killed at the hands of their intimate partner, according to the coalition. Emily Palmer, Peoplemag, 17 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'murder.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

partly from Middle English murther, from Old English morthor; partly from Middle English murdre, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English morthor; akin to Old High German mord murder, Latin mort-, mors death, mori to die, mortuus dead, Greek brotos mortal

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of murder was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near murder

Cite this Entry

“Murder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
mur·​der ˈmərd-ər How to pronounce murder (audio)
: the intentional and unlawful killing of a person
: something that is difficult or dangerous
traffic was murder this morning


2 of 2 verb
murdered; murdering ˈmərd-(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce murder (audio)
: to commit murder
: to spoil by performing or using poorly
murder a song
murder the English language

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
mur·​der ˈmər-dər How to pronounce murder (audio)
: the crime of unlawfully and unjustifiably killing another under circumstances defined by statute (as with premeditation)
especially : such a crime committed purposely, knowingly, and recklessly with extreme indifference to human life or during the course of a serious felony (as robbery or rape) compare cold blood, cooling time, homicide, manslaughter

Note: Self-defense, necessity, and lack of capacity for criminal responsibility (as because of insanity) are defenses to a charge of murder. Most state statutes and the U.S. Code divide murder into two degrees. Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania currently have three degrees of murder. Some states do not assign degrees of murder.

depraved-heart murder \ di-​ˈprāvd-​ˈhärt-​ \
: a murder that is the result of an act which is dangerous to others and shows that the perpetrator has a depraved mind and no regard for human life

Note: Depraved-heart murder is usually considered second- or third-degree murder.

felony murder
: a murder that occurs in the commission of a serious felony (as burglary or sexual battery) compare misdemeanor-manslaughter at manslaughter

Note: Felony murder is usually considered first-degree murder. Felony murder does not require specific intent to kill, and an accessory to the felony may also be charged with the murder.

first-degree murder
: a murder that is committed with premeditation or during the course of a serious felony (as kidnapping) or that otherwise (as because of extreme cruelty) requires the most serious punishment under the law
second-degree murder
: a murder that is committed without premeditation but with some intent (as general or transferred intent) or other circumstances not covered by the first-degree murder statute
third-degree murder
: a murder that is not first- or second-degree murder: as
a : a murder committed in the perpetration of a felony not listed in the first-degree murder statute
b : depraved-heart murder in this entry


2 of 2 transitive verb
: to kill (a human being) unlawfully and under circumstances constituting murder

intransitive verb

: to commit murder


partly from Old English morthor; partly from Old French murdre, of Germanic origin

More from Merriam-Webster on murder

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