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Where Does the Word "Terrorism" Come from?

Updated: May 17, 2024

The concept of terrorism as an organized activity developed during a period of history starting in the 14th century and continuing through the 18th century. The terms "terrorist" and "terrorism" first appeared during the French Revolution in 1789 and had reference to the so-called Reign of Terror that was launched by the revolutionary forces.

More facts about terrorism:

  • The word “terror” has Latin origins and usually is translated as “to frighten.”

  • There are many opinions regarding what type of activity constitutes true terrorism In the United States, the working definition of "terrorism" is found in the Code of Federal Regulations, which defines the activity as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

  • During the 21st century, the United Nations has sought to establish a working definition of what terrorism means. A 2004 report by the UN Security Council defined "terrorism" as any type of activity that was intended to cause bodily harm to people who were considered non-combatants, using this strategy as a means to compel a nation or other type of organization into either committing a specific action or refraining from a planned action.

Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
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Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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