Terrorism has been a continuous topic of discussion despite the fact that there is no universal definition of the same. However, although it is a common occurrence especially in the current society; the word conveys different meanings to different people. It has been defined by the English dictionary as use of violence or coercion with an aim of achieving a political goal. Groups which make use of terrorism to achieve their goal are inclusive but not limited to religious groups, police department, army, political organizations and nationalists. Although there is no universal definition of terrorism, it bears noting that the word has got a long history. History illustrates that the word terror was used for the first time in the 18th century signifying continuous use of terror as a government policy. In the view of the fact that there are various aspects of definition of terrorism, this essay shall lay its focus on the same.

Apart from that, the essay shall focus on the meaning of the same to different groups of people in the society. Despite the fact that it has been difficult to come up with a precise definition of terrorism, history illustrates that a lot of law enforcement agencies have been putting in considerable effort in order to develop a proper definition. For instance, the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Prevention and Control came up with a definition which illustrates that it can be used to mean war time or the opposite of peace time. Since the definition was not precise, other definitions were latter formulated given that it was necessary to come up with a precise definition bearing in mind that it is a sensitive issue. It is worth noting that a clear definition of terrorism is mostly subjective and is rarely objective due to the fact that it is an act of political violence. For example, the Department of Defense defines terrorism as “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” (International Terrorism and Security Research Para 2).

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Although the definition is quite inclusive, it is still not the best due to the fact that it contains some words which are not clear like unlawful violence. Terrorism has been prone to change bearing in mind that it is a political idea. Originally, terrorism was used to refer to different measures which were used by different governments to control members of society by use of fear. Terror and terrorism was frequently used in Germany and Russia. It is important to understand the origin of the world terrorism to be in a position to understand its definition clearly. As highlighted earlier in the introductory part, terrorism has been in existence for a long time since its usage started towards the end of the eighteenth century.

The first group to use the world terrorism during the reign of terror was known as Jacobin club who used to call themselves terrorists. In most cases, terrorism was used to refer to acts of execution or arrest used with a main aim of forcing the society to comply with the government or the regime (International Terrorism and Security Research Para 4). The usage and definition of the word terrorism has been greatly influenced by circumstances since it is a political ideology. For instance, the current definition of terrorism incorporates a group of people who were initially known as incendiaries. On the same note, it is important to mention that the current definition is broader as it is based with the techniques of assassination which were being used by the revolutionaries of the nineteenth century. From the year 1983, United States has been defining terrorism as any form of violence which is politically motivated and directed towards noncombatants by some groups with the main aim of influencing members of the society.

The definition illustrates that violence in terrorism is different from other forms of violence since it is aimed at influencing government’s policy hence the reason why it is politically motivated. For example, the main reason behind terrorist attack in New York City was meant to influence the Policy of the United States Government concerning Middle East. Secondly, terrorism is always directed towards noncombat members meaning that it is directed towards civilians or people who are not usually ready for any political violence. Lastly, the United States definition indicates that for any act to be termed as terrorism, it has to be committed by sub national groups implying that any other form of violence by whichever group for whichever reason is not termed as such (Ruby pp. 12). Study of the definition of terrorism indicates that the term conveys different meaning to different people as every group tries to protect its interests.

For instance, to the government, it is an illegal act that is aimed at disrupting not only peace but also an act that interferes with the governance as terrorism tries to change the policy of the government. To terrorists or the groups which commit the violence acts, it is an act that is meant to influence the government to change its policy for the good of the citizens. Lastly, ordinary citizens view terrorism as any act that is meant to destroy them. This is mainly due to the fact that in most cases, ordinary citizen’s ends up becoming victims although they are not the main players. Whichever the case, the word terrorism is always associated with illegal and unlawful acts aimed at disrupting peace of a certain region for whichever reason.

Works Cited

Ruby, Charples L.

The Definition of Terrorism. Analysis of Public Issues and Sopcial Policy. Waldorf: The Society for the Psychological Study of Issues, 2002.

Print. International Terrorism and Security Research. What is Terrorism? n.d. Web.

18 October 2010.


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