While most sources seem to agree that death is an important part of being electrocuted, some believe that injuries caused by electricity also fit the definition.

Electrocute: to kill (a person or animal) by electric shock.

Electrocute: to kill by electricity.

Electrocute: to ​kill someone by ​causing ​electricity to ​flow through ​their ​body.

Electrocution is death caused by electric shock, electric current passing through the body.

Electrocute: Injure or kill someone by electric shock.

Electrocute: injure or kill someone by electric shock.

So do you have to die, to have been electrocuted?

  • 3
    I'd say yes. If it wasn't fatal, you've been electrified, rather than electrocuted, but that's just my take on it. etymonline supports this by pointing out that it literally means "execute by electricity" which would necessitate death being a part of it. – John Clifford Apr 13 '16 at 14:55
  • 2
    I agree with John; the connotation, if not the literal denotation, of electrocuted is "fatally". A non-fatal electrocution might be called an electric shock. – Dan Bron Apr 13 '16 at 14:58
  • 3
    I think the severity and power of the shock has something to do with it. Someone touching railway power lines will usually be said to have been electrocuted, even if they don't die from the experience. "Suffer an electric shock" doesn't really cut it in those circumstances. – Andrew Leach Apr 13 '16 at 15:05
  • 1
    @JohnClifford I've never heard the term electrified applied to a person receiving a shock. I've know farmers to have their fences around stock electrified, and rail lines being electrified. But as regards human, I would say received an electric shock. – WS2 Apr 13 '16 at 18:33
  • 2
    "The difference lies in the root of the word - 'cution' refers to a method of death." – geotheory – Mazura May 13 '16 at 15:31

Formally, the words electrocution and electrocute imply fatality. Informally, however, these terms are sometimes used to refer to serious but nonfatal electric shocks. Preferred usage is to normally reserve electrocution for fatal electric shocks, and to use shock or electric shock for nonfatal ones. –wiktionary.org

|improve this answer|||||

According to the Oxford English Dictionary sense 2, it can also apply to non-fatal injury.

Sense 1 involves death. sense 2 of electrocute reads:

  1. trans. To give an electric shock to; esp. (chiefly refl. or in pass.) to kill or injure by electric shock.

One of the examples it quotes is this Australian one:

1988 Courier-Mail (Brisbane) (Nexis) 10 May I was electrocuted. I can still smell the flesh burning.

But I believe there is merit in @Andrew Leach's point, that to constitute electrocution the effect must be severe.

|improve this answer|||||
  • As far as I can tell, 'non-fatal electrocution' is (mostly) only acceptable in British English. – Mazura May 13 '16 at 15:40

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