First-degree murder

noun, Law.
See under (def 1).
[mur-der] /ˈmɜr dər/
Law. the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder) and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder)
Slang. something extremely difficult or perilous:
That final exam was murder!
a group or flock of crows.
verb (used with object)
Law. to kill by an act constituting murder.
to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.
to spoil or mar by bad performance, representation, pronunciation, etc.:
The tenor murdered the aria.
verb (used without object)
to commit murder.
get away with murder, Informal. to engage in a deplorable activity without incurring harm or punishment:
The new baby-sitter lets the kids get away with murder.
murder will out, a secret will eventually be exposed.
yell / scream bloody murder,

the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another Compare manslaughter, homicide
(informal) something dangerous, difficult, or unpleasant: driving around London is murder
(informal) cry blue murder, to make an outcry
(informal) get away with murder, to escape censure; do as one pleases
verb (mainly transitive)
(also intransitive) to kill (someone) unlawfully with premeditation or during the commission of a crime
to kill brutally
(informal) to destroy; ruin: he murdered her chances of happiness
(informal) to defeat completely; beat decisively: the home team murdered their opponents

c.1300, murdre, from Old English morðor (plural morþras) “secret killing of a person, unlawful killing,” also “mortal sin, crime; punishment, torment, misery,” from Proto-Germanic *murthra- (cf. Goth maurþr, and, from a variant form of the same root, Old Saxon morth, Old Frisian morth, Old Norse morð, Middle Dutch moort, Dutch moord, German Mord “murder”), from PIE *mrtro-, from root *mer- “to die” (see mortal (adj.)). The spelling with -d- probably reflects influence of Anglo-French murdre, from Old French mordre, from Medieval Latin murdrum, from the Germanic root.

Viking custom, typical of Germanic, distinguished morð (Old Norse) “secret slaughter,” from vig (Old Norse) “slaying.” The former involved concealment, or slaying a man by night or when asleep, and was a heinous crime. The latter was not a disgrace, if the killer acknowledged his deed, but he was subject to vengeance or demand for compensation.

Mordre wol out that se we day by day. [Chaucer, “Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” c.1386]

Weakened sense of “very unpleasant situation” is from 1878.


Old English myrðrian, from Proto-Germanic *murthjan (cf. Old High German murdran, German mördren, Gothic maurþjan; see murder (n.)). Related: Murdered; murdering.



Related Terms

bloody murder, get away with murder

Wilful murder was distinguished from accidental homicide, and was invariably visited with capital punishment (Num. 35:16, 18, 21, 31; Lev. 24:17). This law in its principle is founded on the fact of man’s having been made in the likeness of God (Gen. 9:5, 6; John 8:44; 1 John 3:12, 15). The Mosiac law prohibited any compensation for murder or the reprieve of the murderer (Ex. 21:12, 14; Deut. 19:11, 13; 2 Sam. 17:25; 20:10). Two witnesses were required in any capital case (Num. 35:19-30; Deut. 17:6-12). If the murderer could not be discovered, the city nearest the scene of the murder was required to make expiation for the crime committed (Deut. 21:1-9). These offences also were to be punished with death, (1) striking a parent; (2) cursing a parent; (3) kidnapping (Ex. 21:15-17; Deut. 27:16).

In addition to the idiom beginning with


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