1 of 2


mur·​der ˈmər-dər How to pronounce murder (audio)
: the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought
was convicted of murder
: 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


2 of 2


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

transitive verb

: to kill (a human being) unlawfully and with premeditated malice
: to slaughter wantonly : slay
: to put an end to
: mutilate, mangle
murders French
: to defeat badly

intransitive verb

: to commit murder
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

Example Sentences

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
Thomas, initially charged with murder, had served prison time after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the shotgun slaying of 40-year-old Tawanda Thomas. Carol Robinson |, al, 21 Mar. 2023 Finding aggravating factors also is part of the process of sentencing defendants to death in murder cases. Jim Saunders, Sun Sentinel, 20 Mar. 2023 The murder case gained national attention and a Netflix documentary was released in conjunction with the trial. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, 20 Mar. 2023 Early Sunday, Aurora police arrested James Toliver Craig, 45, and charged him with first-degree murder in connection with the death of his wife Angela Craig, 43, according to a statement from the Aurora Police Department. Kc Baker, Peoplemag, 20 Mar. 2023 Dedrick Devonshay Williams, Michael Boatwright and Trayvon Newsome had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of the rapper. Nadine El-bawab, ABC News, 20 Mar. 2023 Five of those officers — Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Tadarrius Bean, Justin Smith and Emmitt Martin III — were charged with second-degree murder in connection with Nichols' death, but Smith has not been charged. Landon Mion, Fox News, 19 Mar. 2023 In two of those shootings, the guards were charged with murder: one at a Highlandtown bar and another at a Royal Farms in Carroll Park. Christine Condon, Baltimore Sun, 19 Mar. 2023 Jerry Crutcher, 56, has been charged with first-degree murder in relations to the death of 66-year-old Charlie Williams, police said on Twitter. Remington Miller, Arkansas Online, 18 Mar. 2023
Lori Vallow Daybell, the Idaho mother accused of murdering her two children, will not face the death penalty in her upcoming murder trial, a judge has ruled, according to multiple outlets. Corin Cesaric, Peoplemag, 21 Mar. 2023 The Taliban have a systemic, countrywide effort to hunt them down and murder them. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 16 Mar. 2023 Former assassin Uma Thurman wakes from a coma after ex-lover and boss Bill attempts to murder her on her wedding day. Brooke Lamantia, Harper's BAZAAR, 9 Mar. 2023 Melzer was convicted of attempting to murder U.S. service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and illegally transmitting national defense information. Dennis Romero, NBC News, 4 Mar. 2023 Eve was arrested on charges of attempting to murder police officers, according to authorities. Deborah Acosta, WSJ, 3 Jan. 2023 Roske is charged with attempting to murder a justice of the United States. CBS News, 27 Oct. 2022 In the 1860s, for example, English serial killer Mary Ann Cotton used arsenic to murder 21 people, including three husbands and 12 of her children and step-children. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 26 Mar. 2022 But the game has a biting sense of humor: hidden bears that will murder you with a smack, off-kilter in-game messages from other players, or—my favorite—a deadly boss waiting for you at the top of a very long ladder. Megan Farokhmanesh, WIRED, 30 Dec. 2022 See More

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

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 24 Mar. 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

What Did You Just Call Me?

  • brown chihuahua sitting on the floor with squinting eyes looking at the camera
  • Before we went to her house, Hannah told us her aunt was a flibbertigibbet.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?