Difference Between Murder and Homicide

Murder vs Homicide

Homicide is a word that is increasingly being used in magazines, newspapers, and websites these days. This is, in fact, a word found in American English, and it refers to the act of killing of a human being just like murder does. This is really confusing for some as they find it difficult to choose the right word in a particular context. Many feel that homicide and murder are interchangeable. However, there are legal differences between the two concepts that become a basis for sentences for criminals in courts of law. This article intends to highlight these differences for the benefit of the readers.


Murder is not just an illegal act; it is considered a heinous crime because it is a preplanned killing of a human being by another human being. Murder is a crime that is premeditated knowing full well what one is going to do. This means that when a criminal has been charged with murder, he is not only convicted with the charge of a simple homicide but also the intent of killing an individual. It is this intent to kill that makes a murder such a heinous crime.

There is a classification in murders also with there being first degree, second degree, and finally there being third degree murders. This classification system takes into account the intent of the criminal as well as the circumstances and the gravity of the crime. When there is an intent and cruelty both involved in a murder, it is called a first degree murder. No premeditation but cruelty involved leads to second degree murder. The criminal act where a human being gets killed because someone harms another human being is treated as third degree murder or manslaughter.


The simple act of killing of a human being gets classified as homicide. It does not require the intent of the criminal to be taken into account, and the fact that a man has died because of the fault of another person is enough to refer the act as homicide. This means that homicide is a broad, generic concept that could mean the difference between a lifer and an acquittal without a sentence. An act of harming an individual in defense of oneself or a family member leading to his death classifies as homicide and not murder. When a person gets killed in line of duty of a law enforcement officer, he is not charged with murder but homicide.

There are three different types of homicides called justifiable, excusable, and criminal. Among these three, it is the criminal homicide that carries most severe punishment as the act is unjustifiable. Justifiable homicides are acts where a human being gets killed in self defense or when one is trying to defend another person.

What is the difference between Murder and Homicide?

• Murder is a crime bigger than homicide

• There is malicious intent, in addition to the act of killing a human being, in murder while homicide is the simple act of killing a human being

• A murder convict is not only convicted with homicide but also the intent to kill

• A murder is always illegal while killings in act of self defense and in line of duty come under homicide

• Homicide is a neutral term while murder has negative connotations