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"Mercy killing" is an act of killing someone who is already dying and in terrible pain, in order to reduce his or her suffering.

Is there any single word for "mercy killing"?

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7  
Euthanasia? –  StuartLC Jul 6 at 12:52
    
Sometimes (in the context of gangsters, less-than-disciplined soldiers, etc.) you might dispatch a terminally-injured person as an act of mercy. –  FumbleFingers Jul 6 at 12:57
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That sounds like gangster slang. Let's send him to the farm, or give him a ticket to heaven. –  user463240 Jul 6 at 13:16
    
You could have used online resources to find out a synonym for mercy killing. –  vickyace Jul 6 at 17:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

StuartLC beat me to it. :(

The word for mercy killing is euthanasia.

Usage:

The veterinary team could not heal the dog; it had to be euthanized.

Many religious people take issue with euthanasia as being no different than any other form of murder.

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Pronounced exactly like youth in Asia. The eu- prefix means 'good'; you see it in Eumenides, euphemism, and euphonious. The thana- part means 'death'. Since it's Greek, it falutes very high. –  John Lawler Jul 6 at 14:03
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@JohnLawler Spreading the good news around a bit, there’s also evangelize, which got caught up in the u>v mania. I think people may have missed part of your point: that euthanize and mercy killing aren’t in the same register. –  tchrist Jul 6 at 14:26
    
@tchrist: Right. There are issues of social relations -- and in this case political and moral relations -- involved here that go far beyond grammar. Basically, it's a matter of who controls the vocabulary, and that's the one that eventually falutes the highest. –  John Lawler Jul 6 at 14:30

In addition to the already mentioned euthanasia another phrase (not a single word) that is used, most often in the context of war, is Coup de grâce from the French "blow of mercy".

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I doubt whether that word is used anymore: I suspect that the act (of administering a "coup de grâce") is illegal nowadays, and so people don't talk about it using that word. –  ChrisW Jul 6 at 16:33
    
Most people use "coup de grâce" in the second sense here, in my experience.... –  AnotherUser Jul 6 at 17:38
    
@ChrisW, You may be right. I remember reading books with the phrase and having to look it up (in a paper dictionary since this was quite a while back). I've never heard it used in conversation but that could just be because I don't live in an English speaking country. –  Motti Jul 7 at 7:25

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