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Is there a difference between murder, homicide and manslaughter?

Colloquially, many people interchange the words murder, homicide and manslaughter. In all instances, someone has died. But, is there a legal difference between the three? In fact, the words all mean slightly different things. This post will dive into the nitty gritty of both terms.



When someone commits murder, it means that it was intentional, they thought about it beforehand and intended to kill another person. Also, for the courts to legally classify an act as murder, it must be unlawful. This means that the act cannot be justified.


The main difference between murder and manslaughter is that there was no predetermined thought process about the killing. However, there is still no legal justification for the act. A common example of manslaughter is running someone over in a vehicle, or “vehicular manslaughter.”

It is important to note that there are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter often refers to when someone kills another in the heat of a moment. Vehicular manslaughter is an example of involuntary manslaughter because there was no thought of attempting to kill someone else.


Homicide is slightly different from both murder and manslaughter in one key element: the act is not always illegal. This means that there are cases where a murder may be justifiable. In homicide’s case, it is solely the act of killing another person. Examples of homicide include someone killing another in self-defense or a police officer needing to kill a suspect in self-defense.

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