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from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One who murders by surprise attack, especially one who carries out a plot to kill a prominent person.
  • n. A member of a secret order of Muslims who terrorized and killed Christian Crusaders and others.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A member of a Muslim militant group responsible for murdering Christian leaders during the Crusades.
  • n. Someone who intentionally kills a person, especially a professional who kills a public or political figure.
  • n. Any ruthless killer.
  • v. To assassinate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who kills, or attempts to kill, by surprise or secret assault; one who treacherously murders any one unprepared for defense.
  • transitive v. To assassinate.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One of the Assassins, a military and religious order in Syria, founded in Persia by Hassan ben Sabbah about the year 1090.
  • n. One who undertakes, for a reward previously agreed on, to put another person to death by surprise or secret assault; hence, one who kills, or attempts to kill, by treacherous violence; a murderer.
  • n. A breast-knot, or similar decoration worn in front.
  • To murder; assassinate.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a member of a secret order of Muslims (founded in the 12th century) who terrorized and killed Christian Crusaders
  • n. a murderer (especially one who kills a prominent political figure) who kills by a surprise attack and often is hired to do the deed


French, from Medieval Latin assassīnus, from Arabic ḥaššāšīn, pl. of ḥaššāš, hashish user, from ḥašīš, hashish; see hashish.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French assassin or Italian assassino, from either Arabic حشاشين (ḥaššāšīn, "hashish users"), or أساسيون (ʾasāsiyyūn). (Wiktionary)



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  • A Sea of Words:
    "A band of Ismaili Muslim fanatics living in Syria at the time of the Crusades whose goal was the creation of a new Fatimid caliphate. From a string of mountain fortresses, they were sent to terrorize orthodox Muslims and Christian Crusaders alike by Sheikh-al-Jabal, the Old Man of the Mountain, and subsequent leaders. The Assassins' campaign included the murder of politically important people, thus in English the term came to mean a politically motivated murderer."
    (p. 93)

    See also fedais.

    October 20, 2008

  • An Ancient Arabic loanword originally meaning "hired killer".

    January 31, 2008