Definition of terrorist in US English:



  • A person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

    ‘four commercial aircraft were hijacked by terrorists’
    ‘a suspected terrorist’
    • ‘It's on a par with removing everyone's freedoms in a bid to catch a few terrorists.’
    • ‘Most terrorists know exactly what they are doing and the effect they want to produce.’
    • ‘To many in the world, those who had carried out these killings were heartless terrorists.’
    • ‘Messages don't even need to come from known terrorists in order to terrorise these days.’
    • ‘I could see real terror on their faces and thought it might be a terrorist attack.’
    • ‘I believe what they mean is that they are fighting terrorists and leaving them no safe haven.’
    • ‘Terrorism is not a nation and terrorists are not an army that you can send troops against.’
    • ‘Finally, the last man is an international terrorist on his way to the airport to hijack a plane.’
    • ‘Children also thought about the terrorists and what was going through their minds at the time.’
    • ‘Yes, we should know that there are terrorists who have ideas and plans to do us harm.’
    • ‘If only by chance, it would seem likely that some of the detainees might be terrorists.’
    • ‘The biggest danger to society is what would happen if these terrorists did get their own way.’
    • ‘He made it clear that he considered those involved in sectarian violence to be terrorists.’
    • ‘More than a decade of civil war and anarchy have made it an almost perfect base for terrorists.’
    • ‘The search is on for the terrorists and politicians are trying to calm the public down.’
    • ‘It can demonstrate that democratic values are superior to those of the terrorist.’
    • ‘So did you know that terrorists need places to live, a plan, money and equipment?’
    • ‘The great and the good are telling us that we must not change policy in deference to terrorists.’
    • ‘We are worried about international terrorism, and those who harbor international terrorists.’
    • ‘People are not born as terrorists but as they progress through life they can become one.’
    bomber, arsonist, incendiary
    View synonyms


  • attributive Unlawfully using violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

    ‘a terrorist organization’
    ‘terrorist attacks’


Late 18th century: from French terroriste, from Latin terror (see terror). The word was originally applied to supporters of the Jacobins in the French Revolution, who advocated repression and violence in pursuit of the principles of democracy and equality.