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terrorism (n.)

1795, in specific sense of "government intimidation during the Reign of Terror in France" (March 1793-July 1794), from French terrorisme, noted in English by 1795 as a coinage of the Revolution, from Latin terror "great fear, dread, alarm, panic; object of fear, cause of alarm; terrible news," from PIE root *tres- "to tremble" (see terrible).

If the basis of a popular government in peacetime is virtue, its basis in a time of revolution is virtue and terror -- virtue, without which terror would be barbaric; and terror, without which virtue would be impotent. [Robespierre, speech in French National Convention, 1794]

General sense of "systematic use of terror as a policy" is first recorded in English 1798 (in reference to the Irish Rebellion of that year). At one time, a word for a certain kind of mass-destruction terrorism was dynamitism (1883); and during World War I frightfulness (translating German Schrecklichkeit) was used in Britain for "deliberate policy of terrorizing enemy non-combatants."

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Definitions of terrorism from WordNet

terrorism (n.)
the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear;
Synonyms: act of terrorism / terrorist act
From wordnet.princeton.edu