Homicide is a term which is used to describe the killing of a human being by another human being. There are a number of different forms of homicide and while this term is often linked with murder, homicide and murder are actually two different things. Murder is always viewed as a criminal act, while there may be cases in which homicide is not only not criminal, but is actually sanctioned or carried out by the state, usually acting on behalf of its citizens. There are also situations in which it may be viewed as justifiable or as an unfortunate accident.
This term is derived from a Latin word which incorporates the roots for “human” and “to kill.” Rarely, this word can be used to describe someone who commits homicide, rather than the act of killing itself. The “-cide” suffix can be seen in a number of other words, such as “insecticide,” a substance which kills insects, and “herbicide,” a substance which is designed to kill plants.
In some cases, homicide is illegal and is considered murder. These include cases of premeditated murder as well as murder in the heat of the moment or murder committed during the course of a crime. For example, if someone shoots a bank teller during a holdup, this is considered murder and will be prosecuted as such. Likewise, if a police officer is killed by a suspect, this will be considered murder.
It is also possible for homicide to be considered noncriminal in nature. In this case, extenuating circumstances surround the situation and lead law enforcement to conclude that the death is unfortunate but is not illegal. Manslaughter is an example of this type of homicide, as are cases in which people are acquitted by reason of insanity or inability to understand the repercussions of their options. Homicide can also be considered justifiable in cases of self defense; someone who kills an armed carjacker, for example, will not be charged with murder because the person was defending his or her life.
Homicide sanctioned by the state includes capital punishment, in which people are put to death for crimes which are viewed as particularly egregious, as well as military actions. When nations go to war, they do so with the full awareness and knowledge that they will be killing people on the opposing side, and that their side may experience injuries and death. Deaths on the battlefield are not prosecuted as murders, but are considered part of the cost of going to war.