I’m having a bit of trouble using the word magistricide in context. I’m leaning towards using the word suicide as reference, but I’m still not sure if it’s correct.

So given the model of “a failed suicide” or “a successful suicide”, does the model hold true for any -cide word, like magistricide?

  • After another failed magistricide attempt, Bob . . . .

  • After another failed attempt at magistricide, Bob . . . .

  • After another failed attempt of magistricide, Bob . . . .


  • After attempting magistricide, Bob . . . .


  • The master noticed Bob’s failed magistricide attempt.

  • The master noticed Bob’s failed attempt at magistricide.

  • The master noticed Bob’s failed attempt of magistricide.

What version is correct or more common? The first? Or are all of them wrong?

  • Even Wiktionary concedes that magistricide is a rarely used word. Other than in sentences like the previous one, usage would be 'quirky' or 'rarefied'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 24 '15 at 11:02
  • All of them are grammatically correct, I think, though using "of" sounds a bit strange to me. None of them are common. If neither the (online) oxford dictionaries nor the (online) merriam-webster recognize a word my feeling is you really should attempt to use a different one. – DRF Jul 24 '15 at 11:02
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    @Katai In that case you probably want words that were in use in "oldish"/medieval times as opposed to newly minted internet words. I have not been able to find any citation of magistricide older then 2009. Doesn't mean there isn't one obviously. – DRF Jul 24 '15 at 11:09
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    @DRF thanks for the clarification. I just assumed that the word itself was real / used - especially because of words like patricide and homicide. I didn't realize that it was apparently a current "invention" because it seemed logical to exist ;) – Katai Jul 24 '15 at 12:33
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    @DanBron I presume the OED will suffice? :) – tchrist Jul 24 '15 at 12:47

Magisterial Coinage

All your uses are fine as they go, but the last set is clearest because of how uncommon a word magistricide is. On the other hand, it is solidly built of well-established parts, so it would be immediately recognizable to any educated reader.

You would not be the first to use magistricide, for this is a rather old word, not a newly minted one as some have suggested. From the OED:

maˈgistricide. nonce-wd.

Etymology: f. as if L. *magistricīda (after parricīda, etc.: see -cide 1), f. magister master.

A murderer of one’s master or teacher.

  • 1670 Lassels Voy. Italy II. 172 ― Nero the Magistricide, who put this rare man his master to death.

Notice the OED calls it a nonce word: a word crafted for one particular use at one particular time and used just that once. Apparently the 1670 citation is not wholly unique, which makes it more of a rare word than a nonce word. Still, even if it is rare, it is perfectly clear in its meaning.

Even if your word were actually freshly minted, it is a only natural to form new words based on old models. That’s how language works. Indeed, the ‑cide component has been used time and time again to form new nouns, and sometimes adjectives, that work like suicide and homicide — which, by the way, are the only two that have come into common use as verbs not just as nouns.

Here are some 126 ‑icide words mentioned in the OED:

acaricide, algicide, aliicide, apricide, arboricide, avicide, bacillicide, bactericide, bioinsecticide, biopesticide, bovicide, Brahminicide, canicide, cervicide, ceticide, Christicide, coquicide, culicicide, cyanicide, deericide, deicide, dominicide, elephanticide, episcopicide, famicide, felicide, femicide, feminicide, feticide, fideicide, filicide, floricide, foeticide, fratricide, fungicide, gallicide, gallinicide, gelicide, germicide, giganticide, gregicide, herbicide, hereticide, hericide, homicide, hospiticide, hosticide, hymnicide, infanticide, insecticide, lapicide, larvicide, legicide, leporicide, liberticide, libricide, lignicide, macrofilaricide, macropicide, magistricide, matricide, menticide, microbicide, mildewicide, miticide, modernicide, molluscicide, monstricide, muricide, mycoherbicide, naticide, nematicide, neonaticide, omnicide, ovicide, oxyuricide, paracide, parasiticide, parenticide, parricide, patricide, perdricide, pesticide, philosophicide, piggicide, piscicide, politicide, populicide, prolicide, raticide, ratticide, regicide, regnicide, rodenticide, schizonticide, self-homicide, senicide, serpenticide, siblicide, silicide, silvicide, sororicide, spermaticide, spermicide, stillicide, stiricide, suicide, taeni(i)cide, talpicide, tauricide, temporicide, tickicide, tsaricide, tyrannicide, urbicide, ursicide, utricide, uxoricide, vaccicide, vaticide, verbicide, vermicide, verminicide, viricide, vulpicide, and weedicide.

There are also a few ‑ocide words:

biocide, ecocide, ethnocide, genocide, Negrocide, phytocide, pseudocide, spermatocide, trypanocide, and tuberculocide.

What all that shows is that people are rather fond of coining new ‑cide words. I find many of those listed significantly less recognizable than your magistricide, and I feel that some of them work better than others. For example, why someone would elect weedicide over herbicide, I have no earthly idea. Piggicide is another ungainly and unfortunate term, but I suppose they must have feared that suidicide might be confused for suicide.

Nonetheless, I would suggest using magistricide in a context where the connection between master and magister were made eminently clear, such as in the Lassels citation or indeed in your own final proffered set of sentences:

  • The master noticed Bob’s failed magistricide attempt.
  • The master noticed Bob’s failed attempt at magistricide.
  • The master noticed Bob’s failed attempt of magistricide.

As with the Lassels, by using both the current English word and the learnèd Latinate one together, you gently remind your reader of the connection between them.

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    Note that there are two slightly different paradigms in these -cide words: some of them (homicide, regicide) mean "the act of killing" (Joe is guilty of homicide) or, more archaically, a person who kills (Macbeth was a regicide); but others (pesticide, herbicide) mean "a substance that kills". In this case it should be clear from context that magistricide would be the former, unless you were being jocular (he put magistricide in his teacher's coffee). – Nate Eldredge Jul 24 '15 at 14:11
  • There's an old joke exploiting this ambiguity: "Why did the ant spray himself with Raid? He wanted to commit insecticide." – Nate Eldredge Jul 24 '15 at 14:12
  • It's certainly quite interesting to get a bit more background on the other "-cide" words! I have one minor questions, more as a side note though: Of those last 3 quoted sentences with Bob - which one would you personally pick? I'ld go with the first version again - i.e. "failed magistricide attempt" – Katai Jul 24 '15 at 17:43
  • @katai I think I might use failed attempt at magistricide so I could end the sentence with a strong word. – tchrist Jul 25 '15 at 2:48

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