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From murder +‎ -ous (suffix forming adjectives from nouns denoting possession or presence of a quality).[1]



murderous (comparative more murderous, superlative most murderous)

  1. Of, characterized by, or pertaining to murder or murderers.
    • 1611, Randle Cotgrave, compiler, “Assassinat”, in A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongves, London: [] Adam Islip, →OCLC, column 2:
      Aſſaſſinat: m. A murther, or murtherous act committed for gaine, or in hope of a reward; alſo, a ſuddaine aſſault, made of ſet purpoſe, and with a murtherous intent, although th' aſſaulted be not killed.
    • 1878 October, “A Tussle with Yellow Jack”, in G[eorge] Bampfield, editor, S. Andrew’s Magazine, volume I, number 10, London: Burns & Oates, [], →OCLC, page 1:
      Every time I heard the bell strike, that denotes the time on board a ship, I full of terror counted the hours until four o'clock; feeling sure that when that hour came, my enemies would begin their murderous attack.
    • 1909, William MacLeod Raine, chapter 18, in Ridgway of Montana:
      While Harley had been in no way responsible for Pelton's murderous attack upon Yesler, public opinion held him to account.
    • 2014 November 17, Roger Cohen, “The horror! The horror! The trauma of ISIS [print version: International New York Times, 18 November 2014, page 9]”, in The New York Times[1], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 25 August 2017:
      [O]ne minute this "Jihadi John" was struggling to get by, and get accepted, in drizzly England, unemployed with a mortgage to pay and a chip on his shoulder, and the next he stands in brilliant Levantine sunlight, where everything is clear and etched, at the vanguard of some Sunni Risorgimento intent on subjecting the world to its murderous brand of Wahhabi Islam.
  2. Of a person: intending or likely to commit murder; bloodthirsty, homicidal.
    Synonym: (obsolete) assassinous
    Antonyms: nonmurderous, unmurderous
    murderous behaviour
    She gave me a murderous look.
    • 1659, Richard Baxter, “Reproving Our Unwillingness to Die”, in The Saints Everlasting Rest: Or, A Treatise of the Blessed State of the Saints in Their Enjoyment of God in Glory. [], 8th edition, London: [] Thomas Underhill and Francis Tyton, [], →OCLC, part IV, section V, page 603:
      Is any man loth to leave his priſon? or to remove his dwelling from cruel enemies? or to ſcape the hands of murderous robbers? Do we take the world indeed for our priſon? our cruel, ſpoyling, murderous foe? and yet we are loth to leave it?
    • 1662, John Reynolds, “History XI”, in The Triumphs of Gods Revenge against the Crying and Execrable Sin of Murther. [] Book III, London: [] A. M. for William Lee, [], →OCLC, page 152:
      De Salez her Husband ſtriving and ſtrugling for life againſt the pangs of death; fear and haſt (contrary to her intent and mind) had ſo made his murtherous wifes hand ſhake and tremble, as ſhe did not ſo fully cut his throat-bole, but he could yet both cry and groan, which he did very mournfully, and which indeed was ſoon over-heard by a man and a maid-ſervant of his, []
    • 1711, Obedience to Civil Government Clearly Stated: [], London: [] George Strahan, [], →OCLC, page 34:
      Adam alſo was the High Prieſt, and received Authority from God, to teach the ſucceeding Generations of Men how to worſhip God, and what Sacrifices were to be offered by Cain and Abel, and all Poſterity. By which Sacrifices were brought into all Nations, to apply the Blood of the Lamb, ſlain from the foundation of the World, in the unalterable Purpoſes of God, to the Conſciences of all Men for the Remiſſion of their Sins, and to Excommunicate murderous Cain from the preſence of the Lord, []
  3. (often figuratively) Of an object: used to commit murder; capable of causing death; deadly, fatal.
    Antonyms: nonmurderous, unmurderous
    • 1782, [Frederick the Great], “Book VI”, in [anonymous], transl., The Art of War; [] Translated from the French of the King of Prussia, 2nd edition, London: [] G. Riley, [], →OCLC, page 56:
      The rapid ſquadrons ſwift as thought engage, / And ſeek the hoſtile troops who ſhun their rage, / 'Midſt the thick clouds which ſmoak and duſt afford / With dreadful luſtre gleams the murderous ſword; []
    • 1796, John Brown, “Of the Law of Nature”, in A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion. [], 2nd edition, Edinburgh: [] Murray & Cochrane, →OCLC, book I (Of the Regulating Standard of Religion, Natural and Revealed), page 25:
      In neceſſary ſelf-defence men have a right to kill their aſſailants. But duelling is unlawful and murderous, a remain of the ancient Gothic barbarity.
    • 1912, George A. Birmingham [pseudonym; James Owen Hannay], chapter XXI, in The Red Hand of Ulster, London: Smith, Elder & Co., [], →OCLC, page 255:
      In street fighting at close quarters a gun of this kind is very murderous and ought to do a terrible amount of destruction.
  4. (by extension) Very difficult.
    Synonyms: killing; see also Thesaurus:difficult
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:easy
    a murderous exam
    conditions were murderous

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  1. ^ murderous, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2003; “murderous, adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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