Is there a word for a person who doesn't commit murder himself but gives the contract to murder to someone else?

  • 2
    The crime is known as 'soliciting a murder' or 'conspiracy to commit murder'. The legal term for asking or paying someone to commit a crime is solicitation. I don't think there is a word 'solicitator', there is a word 'solicitor' but in the UK it's common usage is to mean someone involved in the legal profession.
    – Frank
    Apr 23, 2014 at 9:54
  • The word solicitor by @Frank I think is your best bet. In American English that usually means anyone who offers to purchase a service (or good). But as suggested a solicitor in the UK is a type of legal professional. In other words, if you can provide context elsewhere, solicitor would be a fine word if you're using American English.
    – franklin
    Apr 26, 2014 at 3:47
  • Hello kuldeep. Now that you're back, I'm curious to know which do you think is the best answer. I would also like to remind you to award that person's post too!
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 5, 2014 at 20:43
  • Hi! Mari, I am not able to find exact answer of this question of followings comments, but Murderer can take place instead of that person. in our country mostly people call 'The main accused' to that person. and i am still in confusion that who are you? you are every-time online
    – kuldeep
    May 6, 2014 at 7:54
  • You need to place @ before my name, if you want to notify me. Yes, I am online a bit too much. You're right there, but I fear you have misunderstood your own question. The answers below are generally speaking accurate, to be accused of something it needn't be murder, it can be any crime e.g theft, robbery, drug dealing etc.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 6, 2014 at 11:39

13 Answers 13


Since a hitman is sort of a self-employed individual, the person giving the assignment, or contract, could be considered the client.


It seems that the answer to your question is: no, there is not a specific word for that. All the suggestions made so far apply to many more things than just those that hire hitmen.

  • "Any" here means "at least one". We have found lots of words to mean "a person who hires another person", but not a single one that means "a person who hires another person to kill someone". If they didn't specifically want a word that means that, why did they even ask at all?
    – nollidge
    May 1, 2014 at 20:38
  • And look at @kuldeep's bounty statement. Clearly they're looking for a specific word, or they'd have marked a satisfactory answer by now.
    – nollidge
    May 1, 2014 at 20:47

Consider suborner

someone who pays (or otherwise incites) you to commit a wrongful act

Though, this word was more common in the past. Today, in law, it is mainly used for someone who induces a person to commit perjury.

Technically speaking, suborn doesn't just mean induce someone to conveniently "forget" something in the witness stand, or otherwise get creative with their imagination. An inducement to any kind of crime is suborning, but by far the most common use is in the legal sense above. Or "witness tampering," as the cops call it.

From the book "Searching Shakespeare: Studies in Culture and Authority By Derek Cohen":

enter image description here enter image description here

Also, employer is commonly used in current vernacular.

From Tvtropes:

But most often, the reason for the Contract on the Hitman is because the employer doesn't want anything linking the killing that the assassin did back to them, and wants the assassin eliminated because — say it with us, people — He Knows Too Much.

From the book "Hitman" By Max Kinnings:

...Firstly, I wanted to introduce myself to you and secondly I wanted to request that you desist from your misguided attempt to collect the bounty that your employer placed upon my head...

From the book "Targeted Violence: A Statistical and Tactical Analysis of Assassinations, Contract Killings, and Kidnappings" by Glenn P. McGovern:

...If a hitman's employer is going to arrange a meeting at a specific time and location...


The person who contracts a murder is a murderer.

At least that is the case in Australia, and I believe, in Britain. The person who instigates the killing is guilty of murder, as is the person who does the deed.

Edit: all of the above assumes that the murder is carried out. Thanks to Frank for his extensive comment :-)

  • 4
    Only in the case the killing is actually carried out. When the killing is not carried out (even if not attempted at all) in the UK the person committing solicitation can be charged with attempted murder. There are also some rules regarding breach of contract, a solicitation contract is void in both directions, the person hiring cannot sue the hired killer for breach of contract and the hired killer cannot sue the person hiring for defaulting on payment.
    – Frank
    Apr 23, 2014 at 10:52
  • @Frank thanks for that ... I was assuming that the murder was carried out, but that is not what the OP said.
    – user63230
    Apr 23, 2014 at 10:55
  • It was only a little further information clarifying that it is still a very serious offence even if nothing at all is done by the hired killer. If the hired killer does absolutely nothing they may not be able to be charged with anything (and keep the money), if they plan some of the proposed killing they are open to a charge of 'conspiracy to murder'. All in all, not the best career choice I would suggest.
    – Frank
    Apr 23, 2014 at 11:00
  • 1
    @Frank Even if it were possible, I imagine that litigation wouldn't be a hitman's first choice if the client didn't pay. :-) Apr 23, 2014 at 11:10
  • 3
    @Frank Ah but if you, er, I mean somebody is in the business of murdering for money, chasing up payments is a work activity, not a hobby. Apr 23, 2014 at 13:53

You might want to consider conspirator


Instigator comes to mind as the term for a person who initiates such an action.

  • 1
    I thought of that too but an instigator doesn't necessarily hire a killer or a hitman, but merely "encourages" or persuades someone to do the deed himself. Whereas if you give a contract to it implies that person will be rewarded with a sum of money.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 23, 2014 at 9:43
  • I know, it may fit but not properly. It looks like there is no perfect definition for this role.
    – user66974
    Apr 23, 2014 at 10:32

The term for someone that pays someone else to do the dirty work is "paymaster."

paymaster: a person, country, etc., that pays people and controls their actions.

  • As long as "paymaster" has both a neutral connotation and a pejorative connotation to it, the simplest way to check on whether what I'm claiming here is fact is to google the phrase "the alleged [paymaster] of," and see the results for yourself.

On March 11, 2003, the War On Terror finally served up the alleged PAYMASTER of 9/11 - a shadowy Saudi by the name of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi.

Congress demands speedy probe of "Godman" Chandraswamy - alleged paymaster of LTTE in Rajiv murder.

Bloomfield, that ran PERMINDEX, is tied to being the paymaster for the JFK hit.

"The business and political sectors behind many genocides have often remained invisible and unpunished, since responsibility is usually attached only to the direct perpetrators, whether military or police, but not to their paymasters."

The Secret History of Assassination: The Killers and Their Paymasters Revealed. Magpie Books. Burke, Edmund (1986).

"Again, the resistance of an oppressed population to a brutal military occupation is "terror," from the point of view of the occupiers and their paymaster."

"It was dirty work, but somebody had to do it. The contract went to David Yallop, a man with melancholy eyes accustomed to dealing in violence and conspiracy. He was handed a list of 10 names. Get rid of these people, he was told. The paymaster promised about USD 156,000..."

"Only today I have written a chapter that tells of a furious argument between a contract killer and his paymaster that ends up with a fight..."

  • Also, sponsor is commonly used in current vernacular.

sponsor: a person who vouches or is responsible for a person or thing.

"In particular, Reagan took aim at Muammar Qaddafi, the leader of Libya and sponsor of numerous terrorist attacks..."

"Rev. David Ugolor, the alleged sponsor of the murder of Olaytan Oyerinde, has been discharged and acquitted by an Evboriaria Magistrates Court.."

"Daily leaks from the Style campaign highlighted the Bureau's failure to identify the killer and his sponsor..."


If I understand you right, you're talking about a middle-man between the client (who wants the hit performed) and the hitman (who performs the hit). That middle-man, who passes on a contract and adds a level of anonymity, can be called a "Handler".


If you're looking for an intermediary that arranges the contract killing on behalf of the client/customer, then I'd go with fixer, otherwise I'd use client as suggested by Roald van Doorn.


In Italian language "mandante" is that kind of man. The english litteral translation is "mandator". This helps?

  • 2
    No, it isn't. It's instigator, in English. Il mandante often means the person who commissions a crime or "sends" (mandare) someone to do their dirty work.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 28, 2014 at 20:09
  • It seems to share its root with the french term commanditaire. I guess latin origin is the cause. May 30, 2014 at 10:19


Consider from the source Contract Killer.

  • I know it's two words, but it's the closest thing I could think of.
    – Tucker
    Apr 23, 2014 at 10:07
  • 1
    No. A contractor is somebody who is hired to perform some task, as distinct from a permanent employee. As such, it would be the hitman who was the contractor, not the person who paid them. Apr 23, 2014 at 11:12
  • @DavidRicherby True. A client hires a contractor.
    – Tucker
    Apr 23, 2014 at 13:01

The most famous contract killers organization called themselves the Combination: Murder, Inc. (or Murder Incorporated or the Brownsville Boys; known in syndicate circles as The Combination) was the name given by the press to organized crime groups in the 1920s through the 1940s that resulted in hundreds of murders on behalf of the American Mafia and Jewish Mafia groups whether formed the early organized crime groups in New York and elsewhere. The name was a journalistic invention.

Though the press term was popularized, the client (who
inchoates) , Combination (syndicate), and hitman (Button man) were all legally co-conspirators



Although not usually used in this regard, a hitman/contractor can be considered an agent, so agent handling will need to be used to appropriately use agents.

In the computer game Hitman there are NPCs called handlers that assign contracts to their agents (like Diana Burnwood). This is also used in the Bourne series, where Nicky Parsons is referred to as the Logistics Technician officially, but as a handler (perhaps as a slang) several times. Both the game and the movie center around contract killing.


Another word used to describe the handler. According to Spy Museum, Controller is an individual in charge of agents. So it is synonymous with handler.

While spies and hitman are not the same thing, the covert nature of these professions would indicate that they would share some similar traits as individuals from one may be employed in the other. Whether this is true or not can be left for debate (CIA most probably won't admit to having an assassination program), the terminology is pretty common if it has seen its way into movies and computer games

It would be interesting to see where and when these terms originated. Did Ian Flemming, creator of the James Bond series, ever refer to M as his controller in the novels? Was it used even prior to this?

  • 1
    It would appreciated if someone would explain why they downvoted my answer. I would like to know the reason behind why one thinks it is considered wrong.
    – Tucker
    Apr 26, 2014 at 11:29
  • I think it might be because you technically duplicated my answer, though you definitely offered a far more detailed one than I did. Apr 28, 2014 at 19:02
  • @RagingCelt Oh! I didn't see your answer. Sorry 'bout that.
    – Tucker
    Apr 30, 2014 at 17:32

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.