ter·​ror·​ist | \ ˈter-ər-ist How to pronounce terrorist (audio) \
plural terrorists

Definition of terrorist

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an advocate or practitioner of terrorism as a means of coercion Opposition still runs high to the idea of releasing or bringing into U.S. prisons dozens of men widely considered dangerous terrorists even if many are not. Less than three weeks before the Winter Olympics are set to begin in the Russian city of Sochi, police there have begun hunting for suspected terrorists allegedly plotting attacks.Time



Definition of terrorist (Entry 2 of 2)

: or, relating to, or characteristic of terrorists or terrorism : practicing or involving violent acts of terror a terrorist organization The consequences of the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks of September 2001 will ramify for decades.— Joe Klein There is no margin for error when a real terrorist threat is present and the safety of the public, and the first responders, is in jeopardy.— Gary J. Laughlin

Examples of terrorist in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

George’s Jack will now be chasing down a dangerous terrorist, who was thought to be dead but is apparently very much alive (dun dun dun). Megan Stein, Country Living, "'MacGyver' Fans Threaten They're 'Done with the Show' After George Eads's Emotional Exit," 4 Feb. 2019 In one story, a VR theme park hires minority actors to act as terrorists. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "10 new sci-fi and fantasy books to check out for the rest of October," 15 Oct. 2018 The terrorists who attacked America were clear about their intentions. John Mccain, Popular Mechanics, "John McCain: The 9/11 Conspiracy Myths and the Truth Under Attack," 11 Sep. 2018 Bowlers were on the lanes that Tuesday morning when the terrorists attacked, providing a mark of delineation for the vulnerability of a nation and the frailty of life. Stephen Ruiz, OrlandoSentinel.com, "With PWBA U.S. Women's Open in Orlando, reigning champ displays knack for knocking down pins," 28 June 2018 The terrorists are soon dropped, as the kidnapping plot goes awry and Graver’s mission is spiked. Katie Walsh, Detroit Free Press, "Review: ‘Sicario’ sequel is relentlessly grim," 28 June 2018 Two decades earlier, a Renault CEO had been murdered in Paris by left-wing terrorists. Patricia Kowsmann, WSJ, "The Fall of the House of Ghosn," 16 Dec. 2018 Imagine how catastrophic the Melbourne terrorist attack could have been if the attacker had a semi-automatic gun. Rachel Withers, Vox, "Why? Gun control.," 11 Nov. 2018 That is fair game for debate, but the Politico piece raised the broader question of the president's demeanor by citing his Sept. 11 visit to Shanksville, Pa., where a plane hijacked by terrorists was forced down 17 years ago. Howard Kurtz, Fox News, "Media batter Trump with storm criticism as Hurricane Florence looms," 13 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

More than a year after the terrorist attack from Manchester, Ariana opened up to Elle about how the interview affected her life shortly after. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "8 Times Ariana Grande Has Opened Up About Her Mental Health," 19 Apr. 2019 In a meeting with Hasbro, Marvel editor Archie Goodwin came up with the idea for Cobra, a terrorist organization determined to rule the world and obliterate its main enemy, G.I. Joe. Maude Campbell, Popular Mechanics, "Yo, Joe: How a 12-Inch Soldier Doll Became a Toy Legend," 9 Apr. 2019 Far-right terrorists murdered 49 people in terrorist attacks in New Zealand at two mosques on Friday morning in Christchurch, New Zealand. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Far-Right Terrorists in Christchurch, New Zealand Kill 49 People During Morning Prayer at Mosques," 15 Mar. 2019 The driver, who hasn't been identified, was immediately taken into police custody and is being treated as a terrorist suspect, reports the Telegraph. Erin Florio, Condé Nast Traveler, "London Attack at Parliament Called 'Terrorist Incident'," 14 Aug. 2018 And none of the nominee's questioners will be more closely watched than Feinstein, the driving force behind the Senate's 7,000-page report detailing the CIA's torture of terrorist suspects last decade. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "Feinstein has had Gina Haspel over for dinner, but has 'deep concerns' about the CIA nominee," 8 May 2018 Democrats in particular have been uncertain in their support of Trump’s nominee, due in no small part to the lack of clarity surrounding Haspel’s involvement in the torture of terrorist suspects. Natasha Bach, Fortune, "'Too Tough on Terrorists.' Here's Why Trump Is Pushing Hard for the Confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA Director," 7 May 2018 Beyond the current case, the high court’s decision will most directly affect victims of terrorist attacks abroad who want to use U.S. courts to sue foreign countries that allegedly provided support for those attacks. Jessica Gresko, The Seattle Times, "Supreme Court tosses $315 million award in USS Cole lawsuit," 26 Mar. 2019 Photo: Getty Images New Zealand’s plan to ban military-style semiautomatic and assault weapons in response to a terrorist attack on two mosques mirrors tighter gun laws that neighboring Australia introduced after a 1996 massacre. Rob Taylor, WSJ, "New Zealand Models Guns Clampdown on Australian Experience," 21 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'terrorist.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of terrorist


1794, in the meaning defined above


1795, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about terrorist

Dictionary Entries near terrorist








Statistics for terrorist

Last Updated

12 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for terrorist

The first known use of terrorist was in 1794

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for terrorist



English Language Learners Definition of terrorist

: a person who uses or supports the use of terrorism


ter·​ror·​ist | \ ˈter-ər-ist\

Kids Definition of terrorist

: someone who engages in terrorism

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on terrorist

Spanish Central: Translation of terrorist

Nglish: Translation of terrorist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of terrorist for Arabic Speakers


to make a payment or contribution

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!