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the threat or use of violence, often against the civilian population, to achieve political or social ends, to intimidate opponents, or to publicize grievances. The term dates from the Reign of TerrorReign of Terror,
1793–94, period of the French Revolution characterized by a wave of executions of presumed enemies of the state. Directed by the Committee of Public Safety, the Revolutionary government's Terror was essentially a war dictatorship, instituted to rule the
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 (1793–94) in the French Revolution but took on additional meaning in the 20th cent. Terrorism involves activities such as assassinations, bombings, random killings, and hijackings. Used primarily for political, not military, purposes, and most typically by groups too weak to mount open assaults, it is a modern tool of the alienated, and its psychological impact on the public has increased because of extensive coverage by the media. Political terrorism also may be part of a government campaign to eliminate the opposition, as under HitlerHitler, Adolf
, 1889–1945, founder and leader of National Socialism (Nazism), and German dictator, b. Braunau in Upper Austria. Early Life

The son of Alois Hitler (1837–1903), an Austrian customs official, Adolf Hitler dropped out of high school, and
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, MussoliniMussolini, Benito
, 1883–1945, Italian dictator and leader of the Fascist movement. Early Career

His father, an ardent Socialist, was a blacksmith; his mother was a teacher.
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, StalinStalin, Joseph Vissarionovich
, 1879–1953, Soviet Communist leader and head of the USSR from the death of V. I. Lenin (1924) until his own death, b. Gori, Georgia.
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, and others, or may be part of a revolutionary effort to overthrow a regime. Terrorist attacks also are now a common tactic in guerrilla warfareguerrilla warfare
[Span.,=little war], fighting by groups of irregular troops (guerrillas) within areas occupied by the enemy. When guerrillas obey the laws of conventional warfare they are entitled, if captured, to be treated as ordinary prisoners of war; however, they are
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. Governments find attacks by terrorist groups difficult to prevent; international agreements to tighten borders or return terrorists for trial may offer some deterrence.

Terrorism reaches back to ancient Greece and has occurred throughout history. Terrorism by radicals (of both the left and right) and by nationalists became widespread after World War II. Since the late 20th cent. acts of terrorism have been associated with the Italian Red Brigades, the Irish Republican ArmyIrish Republican Army
(IRA), nationalist organization devoted to the integration of Ireland as a complete and independent unit. Organized by Michael Collins from remnants of rebel units dispersed after the Easter Rebellion in 1916 (see Ireland), it was composed of the more
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, the Palestine Liberation OrganizationPalestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), coordinating council for Palestinian organizations, founded (1964) by Egypt and the Arab League and initially controlled by Egypt.
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, Peru's Shining PathShining Path,
Span. Sendero Luminoso, Peruvian Communist guerrilla force, officially the Communist party of Peru. Founded in 1970 by Abimael Guzmán Reynoso as an orthodox Marxist-Leninist offshoot of the Peruvian Communist party, the Shining Path turned to
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, Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Weathermen and some members of U.S. "militiamilitia
, military organization composed of citizens enrolled and trained for service in times of national emergency. Its ranks may be filled either by enlistment or conscription. An early prototype was the national militia developed by Philip of Macedon.
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" organizations, among many groups. Religiously inspired terrrorism has also occurred, such as that of extremist Christian opponents of abortion in the United States; of extremist Muslims associated with HamasHamas
[Arab., = zeal], Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization that was founded in 1987 during the Intifada; it seeks to establish an Islamic state in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip (the former
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, Osama bin Ladenbin Laden, Osama or Usama
, 1957?–2011, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization devoted to uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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's Al QaedaAl Qaeda
or Al Qaida
[Arab.,=the base], Sunni Islamic terrorist organization with the stated goals of uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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, the Islamic StateIslamic State
(IS), Sunni Islamic militant group committed to the establishment of an Islamic caliphate that would unite Muslims in a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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, and other organizations; of extremist Sikhs in India; and of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, who released nerve gas in two attacks in Japan (1994, 1995).

In 1999 the UN Security Council unanimously called for better international cooperation in fighting terrorism and asked governments not to aid terrorists. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Al Qaeda on the World Trade CenterWorld Trade Center,
former building complex in lower Manhattan, New York City, consisting of seven buildings and a shopping concourse on a 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site; it was destroyed by a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
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 and the PentagonPentagon, the,
building accommodating the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Located in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the Pentagon is a vast five-sided building designed by Los Angeles architect G. Edwin Bergstrom.
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—the most devastating terrorist attacks in history—prompted calls by U.S. political leaders for a world "war on terrorism." Although the U.S. effort to destroy Al Qaeda and overthrow the Afghani government that hosted it was initially successful, terrorism is not a movement but a tactic used by a wide variety of groups, some of which are regarded (and supported) as "freedom fighters" in various countries or by various peoples. So-called state-sponsored terrorism, in which governments provide support or protection to terrorist groups that carry out proxy attacks against other countries, also complicates international efforts to end terror attacks, but financial sanctions have been placed by many countries on organizations that directly or indirectly support terrorists. The 2001 bioterror attacks in which anthraxanthrax
, acute infectious disease of animals that can be secondarily transmitted to humans. It is caused by a bacterium (Bacillus anthracis) that primarily affects sheep, horses, hogs, cattle, and goats and is almost always fatal in animals.
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 spores were mailed to various U.S. media and government offices may not have been linked to the events of September 11, but they raised specter of biological and chemical terrorism and revealed the difficulty of dealing with such attacks.


See W. Laqueur, A History of Terrorism (1977) and No End to War (2003); B. Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (1998); M. Carr, The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism (2007); S. Nathanson, Terrorism and the Ethics of War (2010); M. A. Miller, The Foundations of Modern Terrorism (2013).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


a form of politically motivated action combining psychological (fear inducing) and physical (violent action) components carried out by individuals or small groups with the aim of inducing communities or states to meet the terrorists’ demands. The concept remains notoriously difficult to define with any precision. The major problem is summarized in the adage that ‘one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter’. The issue is complicated further because some would argue that acts of terrorism do not belong exclusively to the politically motivated but may also be employed by criminals and psychopaths. However, political terrorism can be thought of as the use of violence by a group either acting on behalf of, or in opposition to, an established political authority In broad terms, it is possible to identify three major types of politically motivated terrorist behaviour:
  1. revolutionary terrorism;
  2. sub-revolutionary terrorism; and
  3. terrorist action which is essentially repressive in nature (see also TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS). Thus it is also necessary to differentiate between terrorism which is perpetrated by the state itself (see STATE TERRORISM) and actions which are undertaken by groups in pursuit of political change. Finally, it is possible to identify ‘INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM’, i.e. acts of terrorism which transcend the boundaries of one state. The tactics adopted by terrorists have been widespread. including kidnapping, bombs in public places, the ‘hijacking’ of aeroplanes, attacks on property, the extortion of ransom, raids on banks, and state oppression, arrests and torture.

Rubenstein (1987) suggests that terrorism usually springs from the political alienation of the INTELLIGENTSIA from both the ruling class and the masses. The former engages in repression and the latter is indifferent. This combination is particularly likely to appear in colonial situations although it may occur in any country where a social crisis generated by rapid and uneven economic development isolates intellectuals from the masses for whom they wish to act as political spokesman. The other precondition for terrorism occurs when a reform movement collapses or when it appears that such movement will not succeed in restructuring society. For advocates of terrorism, individual or small-group violence becomes the only means that can expose the fragility of the ruling class, raise the consciousness of the masses, and attract new members and supporters to the movement. Rubenstein shares the Marxist view that terrorists have rarely gained mass working-class support and have usually been ineffective in making social revolutions. As an instrument of political change, however, terrorism has often been effective, e.g. as an adjunct of nationalist movements.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000


Al Fata
Palestine Liberation movement’s terrorist organization. [Arab. Hist.: Wigoder, 186]
Baader-Meinhof gang
German terrorists. [Ger. Hist.: Facts (1978), 114–115]
Black Panthers
militant black revolutionists and civil-rightists. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 46]
Nazi secret police; executors of “Final Solution.” [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 211]
the Irish Republican Army; long history of terror and violence. [Irish Hist.: NCE, 1365–1366]
Ku Klux Klan
post-Civil War white supremacist organization used terrorist tactics against blacks. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1505]
(National Socialism) spread fear and terror throughout Hitler’s Germany. [Ger. Hist.: NCE, 1894]
Red Brigade
Italian terrorist group; assassinated Aldo Moro (1978). [Ital. Hist.: Facts (1978), 133]
Reign of Terror
(1793–1794) revolutionary government made terror its means of suppression, by edict (September 5, 1793). [Fr. Hist.: EB, IX: 904]
Symbionese Liberation Army
small terrorist group that kid-napped Patty Hearst (1974–1975). [Am. Hist.: Facts (1974), 105]
American terrorist group against the “Establishment.” [Am. Hist.: Facts (1972), 384]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve some goal
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
He said 'our shared agenda' for countering terrorism through innovative approaches and the use of new and emerging technologies recognizes our common responsibility for eradicating the basis in the rise in terrorism while living within the natural boundaries of the world.
The description of Nelson Mandela as a terrorist at the height of the ANC's fight against apartheid in South Africa by then-UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is a classic example of how the term can easily be abused by those in power.The deliberate refusal to give terrorism a definition separate from any other type of violent crime is primarily to guard against the departure from human rights principles that protect criminal suspects.
"The existence of government backstops, like TRIPRA, has played an important role in ensuring the continued stability and health of the global property terrorism insurance market," said Tarique Nageer, Terrorism Placement Advisory leader for Marsh.
Mahmoud also called for ending the economic sanctions on Syria which violate the UN Charter and international law and constitute economic terrorism, as such sanctions are used against states that reject interference in their internal affairs.
Justice Khosa also noted that neither the United Nations nor the United States had ever been able to give a singular definition of terrorism.
Henceforth, this study aims to examine the causes of terrorism in Karachi city of Pakistan.
'Currently, the fight against terrorism is increasingly in cyberspace.
Maliha Lodhi said 'Terrorism and extremism remain among today's biggest security challenges, feeding off instability in many parts of the world and also fuelling it'.
Appreciating NACTA for organizing such an even, he said the whole world was suffering from terrorism and Pakistan was a victim country of it.
"As we stressed many times that Pakistan has made important sacrifices and contributions to the global anti-terrorism cause and the countries should strengthen anti terrorism cooperation on the basis of mutual respect instead of finger pointing at each other.
APP BEIJING China Monday said Pakistan had made important sacrifices and contributions to the global anti-terrorism cause and finger pointing at each other was not conducive to the global counter terrorism efforts.
The strategy in the region seeks to penetrate their societies, aiming to dismantle their countries to re-form it, stressing that the nature of the Sudanese people is averse to the practice of terrorism and strongly condemns and strongly opposes it.