Far too many Latin words for kill

How many words does Latin have for kill? One of the quirky, somewhat morbid attractions of Latin is that it has many, many words for kill. If you’ve ever studied Latin, you’ll probably remember interficere and necāre, two very classic verbs for kill. But it seems that the more literature you read, the more creative the language gets when it talks about killing. As far as I’m aware, no one on the internet has yet attempted to compile a list of Latin verbs meaning “to kill” longer than about five or six words, or tried to convey a sense of their shades of meaning. So! After much sifting through Perseus’ Latin word study tool, I have here thirty-three words where “kill” is either a primary or a secondary meaning. I’ve also tried to give a potted history of each word, and a little taste of their semantic range.

Feast your deadly curiosity!

Latin words for “kill”

absūmō, -ere, -mpsī, -mptum (ab [from] + sūmō [take up])
to take away; hence, to diminish by taking away. Of things, to consume, to annihilate; of persons, originally to ruin, to corrupt; later, in a physical sense, to kill.

auferō, auferre, abstulī, ablātum (ab [from] + ferō [bear])
to take off or away, to destroy, consume, kill, slay.

caedō, -ere, cecīdī, caesum (from root cīd– or scid-; same root as scindō [cut], Greek σχίζω schizō [split])
to cut, hew, lop, cut down, fell, cut off, cut to pieces;
to strike upon something, to knock at, to beat, strike, cudgel;
to strike mortally, to kill, murder.

concīdō, -ere, -cīdī, -cīsum (cum [with] + caedō [cut])
to cut up, cut through, cut away, cut to pieces, to bring to ruin, destroy, etc.
to cut to pieces in war, to cut down, destroy, kill.

cōnficiō, cōnficere, cōnfēcī, cōnfectum (cum [with] + facere [make])
to make, effect, complete, accomplish;
to wear out, consume, destroy;
thus, to put an end to, kill.

consūmō , -ere, -psī, -ptum (cum [with] + sūmō [take up])
to consume, devour, waste, squander, annihilate, destroy, bring to naught, kill.

corporō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum (from noun: corpus [body])
To make a body or corpse, i. e. to kill.

dēcīdō, -ere, -cīdī, -cīsum ([down from] + caedō [cut])
to cut off;
to cudgel, beat soundly;
to determine, settle, terminate, put an end to.

dēiciō, -ere, -iēcī, -iectum ([down from] + iaciō [throw])
to throw or cast down; to hurl down, precipitate;
pregnant sense: to fell with a mortal wound, to bring down dead to the ground; to kill, slay.

efflīgō, -ere, -xī, -ctum (ex [out] + flīgō [strike])
to strike dead, to kill, destroy.

ēlīdo, -ere, -sī, -sum (ex [out] + laedō [injure by striking])
To knock, strike, or dash out; to tear out, to force out, squeeze out;
To break or dash to pieces, to shatter, to crush to death.

ērogō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum (ex [out] + rogō [ask])
to pay out money from the public treasury, after asking the consent of the people;
to pay, pay out, disburse, expend;
to expose to death, to destroy, kill.

exanimō, -āre, -āvi, -ātum (ex [out] + anima [breath])
to deprive of air or wind;
to deprive of life, to kill.

exstinguō, -ere, -nxī, -nctum (ex [out] + stinguō [extinguish])
to put out what is burning, to quench, extinguish;
to deprive of life or strength, to kill, destroy.

feriō, -īre (related to the roots of ferox [fierce], furia [fury], forō [to bore, pierce], ferus [wild], and Greek θήρ phēr [wild beast])
to strike, smite, beat, knock, cut, thrust, hit;
To kill by striking, to give a deathblow, to slay, kill;
Of the animals for sacrifice, to kill, slaughter; and hence, to offer, sacrifice.

interficiō, -ere, -fēcī, -fectum (inter [between] + faciō [do, make]; interfaciō, in its archaic sense, meant “to put between”)
To destroy, bring to naught;
To kill, slay, murder.

interimō, -ere, -ēmī, -emptum (-emtum) (inter [between] + rimō [tear up])
to take out of the midst, to take away, do away with, abolish;
to destroy, slay, kill.

iugulō, -āre, -āvi, -ātum (from noun: iugulum [throat])
to cut the throat, to kill, slay, murder (classical).

lētō (lēthō), -āre, āvī, -ātum (from noun: lētum, later spelled lēthum [destruction, death], which also spawned adj. lētalis/lēthalis, from which we get our word “lethal”)
to kill, slay.

mactō, -āre, -āvi, -ātum (kindred to Sanskrit makh, mah; intens. māmahyata [to slaughter, sacrifice]; maha [victim])
within the religious sphere, to offer sacrifice, immolate anything in honor of the gods;
beyond the relig. sphere: show honour to, reward;
OR: to kill, slaughter, put to death.

mortificō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum (mors [death] + faciō [make])
to kill, destroy (ecclesiastical Latin).

necō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum (from the same root as Sanskrit naç [disappear]; Greek νέκυς nekus [corpse], νεκρός nekros [dead])
to kill, slay, put to death, destroy.

obtruncō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum (ob [from] + truncō [maim, mangle, shorten by cutting off])
to cut off, lop away; to trim, prune;
to cut down, cut to pieces, kill, slay, slaughter.

occīdō (obc-), -ere, -cīdī, -cīsum (ob [from] + caedō [cut])
to strike down, strike to the ground; to beat, smash, crush;
to strike or cut down; to cut off, kill, slay.

peragō, -ere, -ēgī, -actum (per [through] + agō [drive])
to thrust through, pierce through, transfix;
to kill, slay.

percutiō, -ere, -cussī, -cussum (per [through] + quatiō [shake, batter, beat, break])
to strike through and through, to thrust or pierce through;
to slay, kill.

perimō, -ere, -ēmī, -emptum (-emtum) (per [through] + rimō [tear up])
to take away entirely, to annihilate, extinguish, destroy; to cut off, hinder, prevent;
to kill, slay.

sauciō, -āre, -āvi, -ātum (related to adj. saucius [wounded, hurt])
to wound, hurt;
to kill, wound mortally.

sōpiō, -īre, -īvī or -iī, -ītum (from noun: sopor [sleep])
to deprive of feeling or sense; esp. by sleep, to put or lull to sleep;
in the poets, pregnant sense, to lay to rest, i. e. to kill.

strangulō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum (from Greek στραγγαλάω strangalaō, in turn from στράγξ stranx [that which is squeezed out])
to throttle, choke; and, in gen., to stifle, suffocate, strangle;
to choke, i. e. kill.

suffōcō (subf-), -āre, -āvī, -ātum (sub [under] + …focus [hearth]?)
to choke, stifle, strangle, suffocate by compressing the throat (rare but classical).

tollō, -ere, sustulī, sublātum (related to Sanskrit root tul-, tulajāmi [lift up, weigh])
to lift or take up, to raise, always with the predominant idea of motion upwards or of removal from a former situation;
to take off, carry off, make away with, to kill, destroy, ruin.

trucīdō, -āre, -āvi, -ātum (Lewis & Short suggested that it was from truncum + caedere [body + cut up])
to cut to pieces, to slay or kill cruelly, to slaughter, butcher, massacre.

Possible paraphrases for “kill”

In addition to the above list of 33 verbs for kill, Latin (along with probably most languages) has a nearly limitless capability of paraphrasing the act of killing someone. The few phrases below are what have been attested somewhere in Classical Latin. But given the right choice of words, there really is no end to paraphrasing the concept of terminating another person’s life.

cruorem bibere, to draw blood, to kill; hasta virgineum alte bibit acta cruorem, literally “the spear, having been driven high up, drank the maidenly blood.” Verg. A. 11, 803.
compendiare alicui, lit. “to shorten [life] for someone”; hence, to kill.
aliquem leto dare, lit. “to give someone to death”; to put to death, to kill.
aliquem vitā exigere, lit. “to drive someone out from life”; to kill.
mortem alicui persolvere, lit. “to pay out death to someone”; to kill, put to death.

13 responses to “Far too many Latin words for kill”

  1. Another wonderful word for you:
    excarnificō (1):
    W: hack to pieces, torture.
    L&S: to cut or tear any one to pieces
    I used this word to create a fitting translation for the roleplaying game Hackmaster; the game master thus being called ‘dominus excarnificandi’.

    Whitaker: http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/wordz.pl?keyword=excarnifico
    Lewis & Short: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0059%3Aalphabetic+letter%3DE%3Aentry+group%3D33%3Aentry%3Dexcarnifico

  2. The root in interimo and perimo isn’t rimo/rimor “rip,” which is 1st conjugation, but emo “buy, acquire, take.” Sic dixerunt Lewis Brevisque.

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