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Meaning: someone who uses unauthorized violence and fear to achieve a political goal

For example:

  • They were dangerous terrorists, so we had to kill them!

  • They weren't "terrorists". All they did was start anti-government websites and organize protests.

Note: Mostly used to describe people who carry out terrorist attacks, but also used by oppressive governments to demonize people who aren't really terrorists. They can be members of a legitimate armed resistance movement who fight against the military forces of an oppressive government, members of a non-violent resistance movement, or members of a protest movement. Other words used in this way include "insurgent", "subversive", "dissident" and "militant".

Quick Quiz:

The word "terrorist" shouldn't be used to describe

a. non-state fighters who kill civilians

b. people who carry out terrorist attacks

c. organizers of a protest movement

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Contributor: Matt Errey