Recently I've been seeing a lot of articles regarding the genocide of the North American indigenous people by the European settlers. I've also heard claims that this genocide continues to this day due to institutionalized colonialism.

All morals aside, can the word "genocide" correctly be used to refer to something that doesn't involve killing?

Google defines it as

the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

however the UN defines genocide as

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national , ethnical , racial or religious group, as such:

killing members of the group;

causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and]

forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

I am unclear with this definition if these different criteria have "AND" or "OR" between them; for example must all the terms be met or any single one of them?

Sorry for the unpleasant topic.

  • This is very nearly an interesting question, but I think that unless you can substantiate "I've also heard claims that this genocide continues to this day due to institutionalized colonialism" with references, then you can rely on the definitions you've provided, as they are not ambiguous. The UN definition has implied "OR" between each clause; i.e. they define genocide as "trying to get rid of a group" whether the attempt is by killing them, making it harder for them to survive, or trying to stop the next generation existing.
    – AndyT
    Jul 5, 2017 at 8:45
  • According to this particular definition (not reflected in the dictionaries I've checked in, but the UN surely can define such terms as it sees fit, provided it adds its preferred definition to any article so as to avoid confusion), just forcibly transferring children of the group to another group say is an act of genocide. Jul 5, 2017 at 8:47
  • @AndyT I'm not sure I fully understand your comment. Would it help the question if I sited articles where the term was used as such? Again, I'm more concerned about the literal definition of "genocide" and don't want to have a political debate here, and that's why I didn't reference the articles.
    – ESamual
    Jul 5, 2017 at 8:52
  • Also regarding the UN definition, is it lesser than other sources as it's intended to be legalese, and in general people don't speak legalese?
    – ESamual
    Jul 5, 2017 at 8:53
  • @ESamual - Citing such articles would have helped me, but Kris has found a dictionary which supports your claim, so that's plenty enough to justify the claim. To explain my earlier comment: if someone came on here and said "My mate Dave says anything with less than three legs isn't a chair, but this dictionary says a chair can have three legs; which is right?", then I'd say "The dictionary answers your question, Dave is clearly an idiot, why are you asking us?". So I was looking for some sort of proof that the usage was more widespread than "one person said it" to make it a good question.
    – AndyT
    Jul 5, 2017 at 9:18

1 Answer 1


caedere = to kill.

However, terms can have specialized meanings/ definitions for specific purposes. The UN's definition is relevant to the context and not for general use.

See also:

2 (by extension) The systematic suppression of ideas on the basis of cultural or ethnic origin; culturicide.

Usage notes
Genocide was coined to mean, and is generally used in law to mean, the destruction of an ethnic group qua group, whether killing of all members of the group or other means, such as dispersing the group. In common usage, “genocide” is often used to mean “systematic mass killing”, whether or not the purpose is the destruction of a group or something else, such as terrorizing the group or killing a population without regard to group membership (democide).

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