AskDefine | Define tyrannicide

Dictionary Definition

tyrannicide n : killing a tyrant

User Contributed Dictionary



  • IPA: /taı'rænısaıd/


from French, adaptation of Latin: tyrannus + -cide.


  1. The killing of a tyrant.

Extensive Definition

Tyrannicide literally means the killing of a tyrant. The Monarchomachs in particular developed a theory of tyrannicide, as did the Jesuistic casuistry, criticized by Pascal in the Provincial Letters. Before them, the scholastic philosopher John of Salisbury also legitimised tyrannicide, under specific conditions, in the Policraticus (circa 1159).
Typically, the term is taken to mean the killing or assassination of tyrants for the common good. The term tyrannicide does not apply to tyrants killed in battle or killed by an enemy in an armed conflict. It is rarely applied when a tyrant is killed by a person acting for selfish reasons, such as to take power for themselves. Sometimes, the term is restricted to killings undertaken by people who are actually subject to the tyrant. The term is also used to denote those who actually commit the act of killing a king: ie, Harmodius and Aristogeiton are called 'the tyrannicides'.
Not all overthrowings of tyrants involve tyrannicide because the tyrant might either be killed in battle, kill themselves, or they may be deposed.

Notable tyrannicides

Examples of tyrannicide include those of:
tyrannicide in German: Tyrannenmord
tyrannicide in Spanish: Tiranicidio
tyrannicide in Polish: Tyranobójstwo
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