The word "massacre" is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as, "The indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people or (less commonly) animals; carnage, butchery, slaughter in numbers". It also states that the term is used "In the names of certain massacres of history".[1]

The first recorded use in English of the word massacre in the name of an event is "Marlowe (c1600) (title) The massacre at Paris",[1] (a reference to the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre).

Massacre can also be used as a verb, as "To kill (people or, less commonly, animals) in numbers, esp. brutally and indiscriminately".[2] The first usage of which was "1588 J. PENRY Viewe Publ. Wants Wales 65 Men which make no conscience for gaine sake, to breake the law of the æternall, and massaker soules..are dangerous subjects",[2] and this usage is not recorded in this list.

An example in recent history are the series of Algerian massacres that happened in the late 1990's in Algeria which in particular shocked worldwide observers. Pregnant women were sliced open, children were hacked to pieces or dashed against walls, men's limbs were hacked off one by one, and, as the attackers retreated, they would kidnap young women to keep as sex slaves. Although this quotation by Nesroullah Yous, a survivor of Bentalha, may be an exaggeration, it expresses the apparent mood of the attackers:

"We have the whole night to rape your women and children, drink your blood. Even if you escape today, we'll come back tomorrow to finish you off! We're here to send you to your God!"[3]

From a psychological point of view they are an example of collective behavior in which the usual social norms are ignored.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Oxford English Dictionary Massacre, n.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Oxford English Dictionary Massacre, v.
  3. Nesroullah Yous & Salima Mellah (2000). Qui a tué a Bentalha?, La Découverte, Paris.

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