honour killing is a word that carries sentiments. But its Google synonym don't. Like assassination - is a more of a war machine word. butchery - is not right either.

Do we have a single word for honour killing?

  • 2
    'Honor killing' is probably sufficient to get the idea across. Do you absolutely need a single word? What are your real constraints?
    – Mitch
    Jul 11 '14 at 17:41
  • 6
    Murder is the usual and legal term. Only uncivilized people practice, or refer to, "honor killing". Jul 11 '14 at 18:28
  • 4
    Of course. One can easily be murdered for defying traditions. The point is whether one should use a phrase that intimates that murdering children can be justified by "honour". There is no honor, with or without a silent U, in murdering children. Period. Jul 11 '14 at 19:25
  • 2
    That is, of course, what the state has to call it, because by their definition, what they do is not murder. But it's murder, anyway. Jul 11 '14 at 19:30
  • 1
    @Rupe I was about to ask a question is synonyms were symmetric when EL&U suggested this question as a duplicate. You may find it interesting; it explains that there are perfect and partial synonyms.
    – Patrick M
    Jul 11 '14 at 21:02

There is a neologism mentioned in the media: honoricide.

Maclean's outdid the rest of the media when it called the four murders “honoricide.” While the word “honoricide” literally means “killing of honour” but were getting at the idea of “killing for honour.” Writer Michael Friscolanti sat throughout the three-month trial and wrote a 22-page comprehensive article detailing the girls’ lives and even wrote about how one of the girls’ tombstones has the incorrect birthdate.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Arianawardak/sandbox

  • For me, this neologism doesn't really deal with the issue.
    – Rupe
    Jul 11 '14 at 19:46
  • @Rupe: What do you mean?
    – 0..
    Jul 11 '14 at 19:47
  • I'm not saying it's not a decent answer to the question. It's just that the problems people have with the phrase "honour killing" are connected with the "honour" part of it, and that's still there.
    – Rupe
    Jul 11 '14 at 19:53
  • @Rupe: That is related with an opinion based discussion. I'm just giving an objective answer.
    – 0..
    Jul 11 '14 at 19:55
  • Sure, and I've voted you up for that. But the OP mentioned the "sentiments" associated with the various words offered, so I thought it appropriate to also comment on how any alternative might fit in to that way of looking at things.
    – Rupe
    Jul 11 '14 at 20:03

As the flood of comments has probably made clear, this is a controversial subject. Wikipedia has a list of types of killing that is ... extensive. It includes Honor-Killing under the heading of Killing of family. This came as a surprise to me, as I would have classified Honor-Killing as killing of others due to reasons of personal honor having been offended, as in the history of duels. This is supported by the meanings of the phrases honorable combat, trial by combat and field of honor.

I was incorrect.

Honor-killing instead has a historical meaning of a killing of a family member who has brought shame to their family.

You might note that most of the types of killing are characterized by who or what is being killed and the specific relationship between the perpetrator and victim. Some examples:

  • Homicide: from Latin homo for human being and caedere. Killing of one human by another.
  • Regicide: Latin rex for king. The assassination of a Monarch by their subjects.
  • Fratricide: killing of a brother.

In fact, there are only seven terms from among 60+ that don't use the suffix -cide. Not counting the two subtypes of suicide, these terms are:

  • Honor-killing
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Capital Punishment (a.k.a. execution)
  • Euthanasia

Disclaimer: I know this is not a complete nor definitive list of words relating to killing. I am only building an argument on the ratio of terms presented, which I believe this list is large enough to indicate a definitive trend in the English language.

There are 58 well-documented terms (and several more less-than-documented terms) in this list with the -cide suffix which describe the victim of the killing. In this framework, honor-killing as a term meaning "killing for honor" is an oxymoron. A definition that would match the parts of the phrase at hand would be "the killing of honor." Ermanem points out the neologism of honoricide, which even more strongly opposes the pattern. I would like to counter this with a neologism of my own.

What an honor-kiling attempts to accomplish is the abatement of shame the perpetrator is feeling over the actions of a family member. I propose a better term for this is Shame-Killing or for a Latin fetishist phrase pudicide.

As John Lawler points out, Honor-killing often takes the form of a parent killing a child for disobeying them, and not even in a life threatening or even dangerous way. If the child is underage (as is frequently the case when judged by modern, western standards), then this is a failing of the parent to protect and care for their child. If the child is of age and expected to act as an individual and an adult, then there can be no dispute that this is a murder. There cannot exist such a high-stakes state where an individual is responsible for their own actions and answerable to a legal guardian, especially not with their life. Most democratic forms of governance hold that citizens are answerable only to the state. Even state-sponsored killing do not attempt to trivialize the death with a sugar-coated term – as already mentioned, this is called an execution, capital punishment or death penalty. The stated goal of such killings is not to restore the honor of the society, but to remove an ongoing danger to society.

Also note that sometimes Honor-killings are undertaken when the victim has no responsibility for the perceived offense, having already been victimized by another perpetrator. In this case, the victim who is killed is innocent of all wrong doing – one could even call them a martyr.

In either case, I view these types of killings as an ultimate admission of failure by the perpetrator, who views their own situation as so bleak and unrecoverable that they must attempt to erase the source of their shame, as though ending a life could change the past. Even the phrasing "honor-killing" is an attempt to put a positive light on a violent act. This fits the definition of propaganda, as evidenced by how contrary it is to other phrases regarding killings.

  • 1
    +1 For discussion and Shame-killing, that's a nice simple way of reversing the positivity.
    – Rupe
    Jul 11 '14 at 21:23
  • Referencing pudor is reasonable, but I can never tell whether something like pudicide means killing the shame or the shamer. The phonetic proximity of pudor to words like puta and pudenda might make pudicide a risky word spoken aloud. (PS: Calling it controversial is itself controversial, you realize. But down that road lies recursion.)
    – tchrist
    Jul 11 '14 at 21:48
  • @tchrist I should have added a disclaimer of my Latin abilities: I have none. Also, I think controversy can be declaimed fairly objectively. If you disagree with someone over the controversial nature of something, then Q.E.D. it is controversial (or you've just created controversy, which is close to the same thing).
    – Patrick M
    Jul 11 '14 at 23:54
  • -1 The author is just looking for a single word, presumably he means an existing one that is documented somewhere and not one that you have made up.
    – Frank
    Jul 12 '14 at 7:18
  • @Frank A fair criticism. I thought it was a worthwhile discussion to have regarding what an honor-killing actually was, how its definition is already an oxymoron contrary to the definition of a typical word-concerning-human-induced-death, and why there isn't a single word. Anyways, I thought it was more interesting than just repeating "no, there isn't one." You covered that part well.
    – Patrick M
    Jul 12 '14 at 14:59

I don't believe there is a single word in this case. "Honor killing" and "revenge killing" are fairly common terms in English, though.


From what I understand there is no country in the world that considers an honour killing to be a legal act.

There are countries where it may be excused or used as a means for a shorter sentence or to avoid prosecution altogether but those countries still class it as an illegal act.

Therefore, the two most suitable single words in English for an honour killing are homicide or murder.

The definitions of the two terms are general reference.

  • 1
    Are you sure about the double negative in that first sentence?
    – Rupe
    Jul 11 '14 at 19:45
  • @Rupe You might be right there (damn those double negatives and their double negativity) - edited
    – Frank
    Jul 11 '14 at 19:49
  • They rarely make it more difficult to parse a sentence incorrectly.
    – Rupe
    Jul 11 '14 at 20:16

MacMillain’s thesaurus entry for the oxymoronic term honor-killing suggests several terms for this sort of crime, including murder, homicide, and manslaughter. Perhaps one of those may be to your liking.

On the other hand, depending on the relationship of the victim to her murderer, more specific terms for these horrible atrocities do exist:

  • matricide – murdering one’s mother
  • uxoricide — murdering one’s wife
  • filicide — murdering one’s child
  • sororicide — murdering one’s sister
  • nepoticide — murdering one’s niece (or nephew)
  • parricide — murdering one’s close relative
  • femicide — murdering a woman
  • hereticide — murdering a heretic

Those words do double duty as both the act itself and the victim. So for example, one commits the crime of uxoricide when one murders one’s wife, and she, having been so slain, becomes an uxoricide herself.

As you can see, those all end in the ‑cide suffix. It is, alas, fairly productive, so although many such words derive directly from Latin, others are newly minted at need. The OED says of this suffix (amongst other things):

-cide /saɪd/, suffix.

  1. a. F. ‑cide, L. ‑cīda cutter, killer, slayer, f. cædĕre, in comp. ‑cīdĕre to cut, kill, as in homicīda, parricīda, mātricīda, frātricīda, sorōricīda, tyrannicīda, etc., slayer of a man, father, mother, brother, sister, tyrant, etc.; also lapi(di)cīda, stone-cutter, etc.

    Most of the L. words having the sense ‘slayer, murderer’, have come down into Romanic and English, where new combinations have also been formed on the same type, notably regicide and suicide; filicide has also been used; and many occasional forms appear as jocose nonce-words, e.g. apicide, avicide, canicide, ceticide, muricide, perdricide, tauricide, vaticide, verbicide; or, still more ludicrously, birdicide, prenticecide, suitorcide, etc.

    Also applied to preparations destructive of animal or vegetable life, as algicide, fungicide, germicide, insecticide, pesticide.

[. . .]

If hereticide for murdering a heretic doesn’t quite fit, you could probably take the stem of peccation (meaning a ‘sin’) and make something like peccaticide, a word that I’ve so far found only in French texts. To me it sounds more like sin-killing than sinner-killing, however.

If you don’t mind the sort of nonce-word words which the OED calls jocose and possibly even ludicrous, perhaps sinnercide would convey the meaning you intend. It’s no sillier than guilty-killing.

  • -1 for manslaughter. Accidental honour killing, oxymoronic or just ?
    – Frank
    Jul 12 '14 at 7:24
  • 1
    Manslaughter is a death caused by another human that doesn't amount to murder due to the circumstance of the crime; manslaughter does not have to be accidental. Recognized causes for reducing a charge manslaughter include the lack of motive and intention (e.g. vehicular manslaughter of a pedestrian), lack of malice aforethought (e.g. crime of passion, or defending oneself or one's family with too much force), or other mitigating legal factors. If the judicial system in question recognizes honor as a legal factor, manslaughter could be a charge levied for an honor-killing.
    – Patrick M
    Jul 12 '14 at 15:05
  • @Frank Please see the comment immediately below yours; you may well wish to reconsider.
    – tchrist
    Jul 12 '14 at 15:13
  • Note that I would not want to live under (or even pass through) such a judicial system; cultural traditions aside. Honor is way too subjective for a legal precedent (and that's an understatement). In other words, I'm glad manslaughter doesn't mean honor-killing in English. However, it is a reasonable translation from a language/culture that does recognize such legal factors. (PS I would upvote, but I already did.) (PPS Feel free to incorporate this point into your answer.)
    – Patrick M
    Jul 12 '14 at 15:14
  • @tchrist Thanks, but no.
    – Frank
    Jul 12 '14 at 17:54

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