Homicide – the killing of another human

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n. (14c)

1. The killing of one person by another.

2. Someone who kills another. [1]

1. The killing of a human being under any circumstances, by the act, agency, or omission of another. 26 Am J1st Homi § 2.

The word is generic and embraces every mode by which the life of one man is taken by the act of another man.  It may be lawful, as where a man is killed in war or put to death under the valid sentence of a court, or it may be unlawful.  It may also be justifiable or excusable, as in the prevention of a violent felony or in self-defense.  The word includes both murder and manslaughter. Commonwealth v Webster, 59 Mass (5 Cush) 295. [2]

1. The killing of a human being.  Homicide may be noncriminal (excusable homicide or justifiable homicide) or criminal (felonious homicide).  Excusable or justifiable homicide includes killing by accident (see homicide by misadventure) or in self-defense.  A felonious homicide is either murder or manslaughter.  Manslaughter homicide includes negligent homicide and vehicular homicide. [3]

     Excerpt from Glanville Williams’ Textbook of Criminal Law (1978):

     “The legal term for killing a man, whether lawfully or unlawfully, is ‘homicide.’  There is no crime of ‘homicide.’ Unlawful homicide at common law comprises the two crimes of murder and manslaughter.  Other forms of unlawful homicide have been created by statute: certain new forms of manslaughter (homicide with diminished responsibility, and suicide pacts), infanticide, and causing death by dangerous driving. [4]

Various Forms of
Noncriminal (nonfelonous) Homicide:

nonfelonious homicide (1896) A killing that is legally either excusable or justifiable.

excusable homicide – homicide by accident or self-defense. — aka justifiable homicide.

  • homicide by misadventure ( (17c) Homicide resulting form a lawful act performed in a lawful manner under a reasonable belief that no harm could occur. – aka death by misadventure; accidental killing; killing by misadventure; homicide per infortunium.
         See involuntary manslaughter. [1] 

justifiable homicide – the killing of another person in self-defense, to prevent a crime or a criminal’s escape, or as execution for a capital crime.

Various Forms of
Criminal (felonious) Homicide:

criminal homicide (1850) 1. Homicide prohibited and punishable by law, such as murder or manslaughter.  2. The act of purposely, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently causing the death of another human being.  Model Penal Code § 210.1. [1]

1. The unlawful taking by one human being of the life of another in such a manner that he dies within a year and a day from the time of the giving of the mortal wound.  If committed with malice, express or implied by law, it is murder; if without malice, it is manslaughter.  No personal injury, however grave, which does not destroy life, with constitute either of these crimes.  The injury must continued to affect the body of the victim until his death.  If it ceases to operate, and death ensues from another cause, no murder or manslaughter has been committed.  Commonwealth v Macloon, 101 Mass 1. [2]

     Excerpt from Lloy L. Welnreb’s “Homicide: Legal Aspects,” in Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice (Sanford H. Kadish ed., 1983):

     “Criminal homicide is everywhere divided into categories that reflect the historical distinction in English law between murder and manslaughter.  American, statutory formations have varied the terminology and the precise classifications; many statutes create more than two forms of criminal homicide, for purposes of definition and/or punishment.  These variations notwithstanding, it is usually possible to discern a category that corresponds to the common-law crime of murder, the paradigm of which is a deliberate killing without legal justification or excuse, and a category that corresponds to the common-law crime of manslaughter and comprises killings that either are committed in circumstances which substantially mitigate their intentional aspect or are not intentional.  In common speech as well as in the law, murder refers to the most serious criminal homicides, and manslaughter to those that may be serious crimes for which a substantial penalty is imposed but lack the special gravity of murder.” [5]

felonious homicide (18c) Homicide committed unlawfully, without legal justification or excuse.  *  This is the category into which murder and manslaughter fall. [1] [3]

homicidium ex voluntate – Voluntary or willful homicide.
     See criminal homicide.


murder – the killing of a human being with malice aforethought.

  • first degree murder – willful, deliberate, or premeditated murder, or murder committed during the course of another dangerous felony. — aka murder of the first degree; murder one.
  • second degree murder – committed with intent to kill, but not premeditated or deliberate. — aka murder of the second degree; murder two.
  • third degree murder – a wrong that does not constitute first or second degree murder; few states have third degree murder within their legal codes. — aka murder of the third degree; murder three.

manslaughter – the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.

  • voluntary manslaughter – homicide committed with provocation or in the heat of passion. — aka first degree manslaughter; intentional manslaughter; manslaughter in the first degree; unintentional murder.
  • involuntary manslaughter – homicide with no intention to kill or do grievous bodily harm, but committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of a crime not included within the felony-murder rule — aka second degree manslaughter; negligent manslaughter; manslaughter in the second degree.

Related Terms:

homicidal adj. (18c) 1.  Of, relating to, or involving homicide <homicidal incidents>. 2. Likely to commit murder <homicidal maniac>.

culpable homicide (16c) Scots law. A wrongful act that results in a person’s death but does not amount to murder. 

homicide by abuse (1989) Homicide in which the perpetrator, under circumstances showing an extreme indifference to human life, causes the death of the perpetrator’s dependent — usually a child or mentally retarded person.

negligent homicide (1859) Homicide resulting from the careless performance of a legal or illegal act in which the danger of death is apparent; the killing of a human being by criminal negligence. — aka criminally negligent homicide.  See criminal negligence under NEGLIGENCE.

     Excerpt from Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce’s Criminal Law (3d ed. 1982):

     “There is no common-law offense known as ‘negligent homicide.’  As a matter of the common law of crimes any killing below the grade of manslaughter is innocent homicide. Some of the new penal codes have a classification scheme which (omitting degrees or other variations) divides criminal homicide into murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide or simply negligent homicide.  For the most part, however, this has been achieved by removing from manslaughter the offense of homicide by criminal negligence and using this to constitute the newly named offense. Thus, though there are a few exceptions, most states will have no homicide offense which would be below common-law manslaughter. [8]

public-service homicide (1995) Slang. The killing of a criminal by another criminal.

reckless homicide (1866) The unlawful killing of another person with conscious indifference toward that person’s life.

vehicular homicide (1952) The killing of a person as a result of the unlawful or negligent operation of a motor vehicle. — aka automobile homicide.

victim-precipitated homicide (1957) 1. A form of suicide in which the suicidal person intentionally engages in life-threatening behavior to induce a police officer to shoot the person.  *  Frequently, the decedent attacks the officer or otherwise threatens the officer’s life, but occasionally the third person’s life is at risk.  A suicide-by-cop is distinguished from other police shootings by three elements.  The person must (1) evince an intent to die, (2) consciously understand the finality fo the act; and (3) confront a law enfocement official with behavior so extreme that is compels that officer to act with deadly force. — aka police-assisted suicide; suicide-by-cop 2. A killing provoked by the victim who consciously intended to die at the hands of another person.  *  This term applies loosely to any assisted suicide.  Unlike most types of homicide, the victim bears some of the responsibility for causing his or her own death.

willful homicide (1860) The act of intentionally causing a person’s death, with or without legal justification.


malicious killing (17c) An intentional killing without legal justification or excuse. — aka killing with malice.

homicidium n. [Latin “felling of a person”] Homicide.

 homicidium in rixa [Law Latin] (17c) Scots law. Homicide committed in the course of a brawl. [1]

     Excerpt from John Trayner’s Trayner’s Latin Maxims (4th ed. 1894):

     “Homicidium in rixa . . . . Such crime amounts only to culpable homicide, and the punishment being in the discretion of the judge, varies according to the particular circumstances of each case. It is not punished capitally, because this crime lacks the previous malice essential to the crime of murder. [9]

femicide – the killing of a woman.

fratricide – The killing of a brother or a sister; a person who kills a brother or a sister.

infanticide – The killing of a young child shortly after its birth.

matricide -the murder of one’s own mother; a person who murders his own mother.

parricide – the murder of one’s mparent; a perons who is guilty of the murder of his parent.

patricide -a person who kills his father; the crime of murdering one’s own father.

prolicide – the killing by a parent of his offspring.

regicide – A person who killed a king or a queen; the crime of killing a king or queen.

suicide – Death by one’s own hand intentionally lifted against himself.  29 Am J Rev ed Ins § 1145.
By statute in Missouri, “every person deliberately assisting another in the commission of self-murder shall be deemed builty of manslaughter in the first degree.”  State v Webb, 216 Mo 378, 115 SW 998.
By the early common law of England, suicide was ranked as an infamous crime and was held to by a “species of felony” punishable by a forfeiture to the king of the goods and chattels of the felo de se, and an ignominious burial in the highway with a stake driven through his body.  Suicide has never been classed as a crime in the United States, but there are cases holding attempted suicide to be an offense, even int he absence of statute.  26 Am J1st Homi §§ 84-86.

uxoricide – The killing of a woman by her husband. [2]


homicidium in rixo – The killing of a human being while engaged in a quarrel.


reckless homicide – A form of homicide, usually involuntary manslaughter, involving death caused by some willful and wanton act (EXAMPLE: driving while intoxicated).


felonious homicide – The killing of a human being without justification or excuse, that is, murder or manslaughter.

negligent homicide – The crime of causing the death fo a person by negligent or reckless conduct.
      See and compare culpable negligence.
Also see reckless endangerment; reckless homicide; vehicular manslaughter.

vehicular homicide – A form of negligent homicide in which the death of a person is caused by the negligent, reckless, or unlawful operation of a motor vehicle. [3]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Glanville Williams, Textbook of Criminal Law 204 (1978).

[5]: Lloy L. Welnreb, “Homicide: Legal Aspects,” in 2 Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice 855, 857 (Sanford H. Kadish ed., 1983)


[8]: Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law 116-17 (3d ed. 1982).

[9]: John Trayner, Trayner’s Latin Maxims 244 (4th ed. 1894).


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