Death Definitions Crime Writing

Defining Death: A Jargon Buster

Can you confidently describe what is meant by a homicide? What about murder as opposed to manslaughter? What is it called when someone is killed by a group of people?

Below is a description of different types of death in case you need to refer to these for your story, or just want to understand the difference between them. Pay particular attention to the table on how to refer to different kinds of homicide!


Homicide is defined as the killing of one person by another, but we also hear phrases like ‘serial killer’ and ‘murder spree’… how do these definitions differ?

This table shows how we can work out what to refer to a homicide as, which may help you describe the type of killing in your story.

For example, as a guide we should only refer to a ‘mass murder’ if there are four or more victims, killed within the same event and location. It is a ‘spree’ if there is more than one victim, killed in different locations but within the same ‘event’ – i.e. the killer has not had a cooling off period in between. A ‘serial killer’ then is only described as such one we have three or more victims, all in different locations and at different times with a period of inactivity between.

Source: Douglas et al (1986) Criminal Profiling from Crime Scene Analysis. Behavioural Sciences & the Law, Vol 4, p401-421.


This is a type of homicide, where the offender intended to kill the victim. You might hear the phrase ‘premeditated’.




The offender has killed, and although not premeditated, the intent to kill the victim existed. There are three kinds of voluntary manslaughter:

Diminished responsibility’ – A recognised physical, psychiatric or psychological condition impaired the offenders’ ability to understand their conduct, form a rational judgement or exercise self-control.

Loss of control’ – The offender lost control before or during the act because of one of the following triggers: fear of serious violence from the victim or the offender was seriously wronged by the victim (things said or done).

Suicide pact’ – Murder may be reduced to manslaughter if a victim is killed as part of a suicide pact by the survivor.


The offender has killed, but had no intention to do so. The victim died because of gross negligence by the offender (e.g. where the offender had a duty of care over the deceased) or as a consequence of an illegal or dangerous act carried out by the offender (e.g. killing someone whilst drink driving).

The Others

Amicicide: Someone is murdered by a friend

Androcide: The killing of men as a sex-based hate crime

Familicide: At least one spouse and child from the same family are killed

Femicide: The killing of women as a sex-based hate crime

Filicide: A parent deliberately kills their own child

Gendercide: The systematic killing of members of a specific sex

Genocide: The murder of a large group of people

Infanticide: A mother kills her child within a year of birth

Matricide: Killing your own mother

Patricide: Killing your own father

Polyencide: A group of people killing one person

Siblicide: The killing of an infant by a close relative


Click for Sources/ Further Reading.


Would you like me to add anything else to the list? I hope this was helpful!

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