- One who murders by surprise attack, especially one who carries out a plot to kill a prominent person.
- Assassin A member of a militant subgroup of Ismailis that in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries carried out political assassinations directed especially against Seljuk rule.
- A game in which players eliminate other players by tagging them with an innocuous object, as a sock, rubber band, or pellet from a paintball gun, until only one player remains.
Origin of assassin
Medieval Latin assassīnus from
Arabic haššāšīn pl. of haššāš hashish user from hašīš hashish
; see hashish
. Word History:
The history of the word assassin
shows how legends can influence the development of words as powerfully as facts. European legends about a murderous, drug-crazed sect called the Assassins
grew up around the Nizaris, a group of Ismaili Shi'ite Muslims that held strongholds in Iran and Syria from the 11th to the 13th century. The Nizaris opposed the rule of the Seljuk dynasty and the Abbasid caliphs, who were Sunni and regarded the Nizaris as unorthodox outcasts. Sunni accounts of the Nizaris accused them of all sorts of irreligious practices, and one term of abuse applied to the Nizaris was the Arabic word haššāšīn,
meaning “hashish users.” Reliable sources, however, offer no evidence of hashish use by Nizaris. The Nizaris mounted resistance to this persecution, and one of their most formidable weapons against the Seljuks was the threat of sudden execution by secret agents. Attacks on several leaders among the Crusaders were also attributed to Nizari agents. When the Crusaders returned to Europe, they embellished upon what they had heard about the Nizaris from the group's enemies and told sensational stories about the haššāšīn
or Assassins. Marco Polo spun a tale of how young Assassins were given a potion and made to yearn for paradise—their reward for dying in action—by being given a life of sensual pleasure before their secret missions. As the legends spread, the word haššāšīn
passed through Italian and French and appeared in English as assassin
in the 1500s, already with meanings like “treacherous killer.”
- (historical) A member of a Muslim militant group responsible for murdering Christian leaders during the Crusades.
- Someone who intentionally kills a person, especially a professional who kills a public or political figure.
- Any ruthless killer.
(third-person singular simple present assassins, present participle assassining, simple past and past participle assassined)
- (nonstandard) To assassinate.
From French assassin or Italian assassino, from either Arabic حشاشين (ḥaššāšīn, “hashish users”), or أساسيون (ʾasāsiyyūn).