Terrorism
24 definitions

About this Term

The search for a universal, precise definition of terrorism has been challenging for researchers and practitioners alike. Different definitions exist across the federal, international, and research communities.

  • Federal

    • According to the  CIA, the Intelligence Community is guided by the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d).

    • The FBI's  definition of terrorism stresses methods over motivations and is generally accepted by law enforcement communities. 

    • Researchers at the National Institute of Justice adopt the FBI's definition of terrorism in most cases.

  • International: the United Nations has not been able to agree on an international legal definition of terrorism. Ben Saul, law lecturer at the University of New South Wales and director of the Charter of Rights Project at the Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law, argues that the primary challenges have come less from defining terrorism itself and more from determining the scope of exceptions to terrorist conduct, particularly in regard to two issues: "first, whether national liberation or self-determination movements should be excluded from liability for terrorism, and second, whether State violence causing terrorism should be covered" ( Defining Terrorism).

    • Nevertheless, Saul suggest that the correct approach is first to determine "what is wrongful about terrorism," rather than trying to harmonize the various competing definitions in different jurisdictions and treaties. Thus, Saul concludes that "terrorism can be deductively defined as (1) "serious, violent, criminal act[s] intended to cause death or serious bodily injury" that (2) occur outside an armed conflict (3) "for a political, ideological, religious, or ethnic purpose" and that (4) are "intended to create extreme fear" with the goal of "intimidat[ing] a population" or "unduly compel[ling] a government . . . to do or abstain from doing any act" (Defining Terrorism).

This definition has not yet been approved by a moderator.

The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.

FK Reading Ease
-2.7

FK Grade Level
Graduate School
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  • This definition has not yet been approved by a moderator.

    Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.

    FK Reading Ease
    -55.1

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
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  • This definition has not yet been approved by a moderator.

    Use of violence or intimidation to coerce a government or civilian population to further political or social objectives.

    FK Reading Ease
    5.3

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
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    As defined in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, activity that involves an act that is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States; and appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.

    FK Reading Ease
    -38.2

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
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  • This definition has not yet been approved by a moderator.

    The calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.

    FK Reading Ease
    4.1

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
  • Flag
  • The unlawful use of violence or threat of violence, often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs, to instill fear and coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are usually political.

    FK Reading Ease
    -8.1

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
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  • This definition has not yet been approved by a moderator.

    In the absence of a generally accepted definition under international law, “terrorism” can be defined as the intentional and systematic use of actions designed to provoke terror in the public as a means to certain ends. Terrorism can be the act of an individual or a group of individuals acting in their individual capacity or with the support of a State. It may also be the act of a State, whether against the population (human rights violations such as forced labour, deportation, genocide, etc.), or in the context of an international armed conflict against the civil population of the enemy State.

    FK Reading Ease
    29.6

    FK Grade Level
    College
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  • The calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.

    FK Reading Ease
    4.1

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
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  • The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.

    Context

    Chapters 562, 563

    FK Reading Ease
    -6.4

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
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  • This definition has not yet been approved by a moderator.

    The calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.

    FK Reading Ease
    4.1

    FK Grade Level
    Graduate School
  • Flag