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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
When asked if anyone had mentioned doing Wong harm, fingers were pointed at the Cranston brothers who had coincidentally left town at the time of the murder. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 14 Feb. 2024 The jury of seven women and five men last week found Shawna Cash guilty of capital murder in the death of officer Kevin Apple. Tracy Neal,, 14 Feb. 2024 Here is a review of the murder trial against the Hidden Hills socialite from the pages of The Times: Who is Rebecca Grossman? Los Angeles County prosecutors say Grossman was behind the wheel of the white Mercedes GLE 43 AMG the night of Sept. 29, 2020. Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, 13 Feb. 2024 Church was arrested and is facing first-degree murder charges, deputies said, adding that an investigation is ongoing. Daniella Segura, Sacramento Bee, 13 Feb. 2024 After a foot pursuit, deputies arrested a 35-year-old man, Brian Zielinski, and he was booked into jail on suspicion of murder early Saturday. Karen Kucher, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Feb. 2024 He was convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder, kidnapping and attempted rape. Luke Nozicka, Kansas City Star, 12 Feb. 2024 Another man indicted for Mizell’s murder, Jay Bryant, will be tried later. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 31 Jan. 2024 The Hidden Hills socialite is charged with two counts of murder in the killing of Mark and his 8-year-old brother, Jacob, in a Westlake Village crosswalk. Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, 31 Jan. 2024
After a few years living among the agrarian Funnel Beaker society, he was brutally murdered. Brendan Rascius, Miami Herald, 15 Feb. 2024 Men, women and children murdered in their homes, women raped, and now over 100 still held hostage. Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 15 Feb. 2024 He was murdered by associates of his rivals, which included tax cheat Al Capone. Kelly Phillips Erb, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 The victims, non-gang members, were murdered because photos of them emerged online showing them flashing MS-13 hand signals. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, 14 Feb. 2024 Johnny Johnson, 45, died at 6:33 p.m. by lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre for murdering Casey Williamson in 2002 after attempting to rape her. Luke Nozicka, Kansas City Star, 12 Feb. 2024 Six beloved nuns have been brutally murdered, and as the town grieves, secrets emerge and new leads are established. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 12 Feb. 2024 In October, shortly after the Gaza attack, a 6-year-old Muslim boy was brutally murdered in Illinois by his family’s landlord. Sam Gill, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Feb. 2024 Furthermore, the excerpt suggested that Woodward murdered her husband, William Woodward, Jr., a banking heir. Kalia Richardson, Rolling Stone, 3 Feb. 2024 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 24 Feb. 2024.

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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