Genocide Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

You’ve heard the word genocide, but do you know what it means? This article will provide everything you need to know about the meaning of genocide.

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Did you know that genocide is one of the greatest crimes under international law? Often called the “crime of crimes” after the Nuremberg Trials, genocide became a crime in itself following the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9th, 1948 following the horrific events of the Jewish holocaust.

That said, what does the word genocide mean, and where did it come from? We’ll tell you. Read on as we explore genocide to uncover its definition, origin, and more. 

What Is the Definition of Genocide?

Genocide was once coined “a crime that has no name” by Winston Churchill in response to the atrocities the Nazis committed against the Jews in World War II. It wouldn’t be until 1944 that we first saw the word genocide used. 

Stemming chiefly from the Nazi extermination of the Jews, Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin coined the word in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Raphael Lemkin formed the word genocide by combing the Greek word for kind or race (genos) and the Latin word meaning a killing (cide).

It was not until 1951 that genocide — defined as the killing of a tribe — was accepted as an internationally sanctioned, legal definition. Cambridge English Dictionary defines genocide as a murder of an entire group (members of the group) but especially when you are referencing an entire race, religious group, or even an entire nation.

The United Nations and the Naming of the Crime

During the Nuremberg trials, during which top Nazi leaders were tried for “crimes against humanity,” the treaty aptly named The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was born. 

Even if it didn’t go into effect until a few years later, on January 12th, 1951, the treaty was adopted by the General Assembly on December 9th, 1948. 

Genocide was defined by the treaty as the destruction of “a religious, national, racial or ethnic group.” The U.N. Treaty encompasses not just war but peace as well. Whereas the Nuremberg trials that were conducted at the time by not only an international military tribunal but literally specified “crimes against humanity” related to solely war crimes. 

Examples of Genocide in a Sentence

Now that we have covered the ins and outs of the word of the day, let’s try using it in a sentence. It is always a great way to help remember newfound knowledge by quizzing yourself, and a great way to do that is by seeing how many sentences you can come up with on your own.

To get you going, check out our example sentences listed below:

Did you know that the United Nations declared genocide to be an international crime in 1948?

If we stand together, we can prevent genocide.

World leaders are calling for an invenstigation into whether war crimes, such as genocide, were committed.

There has been a genocide in Bosnia, Cambodia, Russia, and Ukraine.

Genocide and mass killing go hand-in-hand.

Hitler is behind one of the worst genocides of all time.

Everyone in the town fled as quick as they could because they feared retribution for the genocide.

Arguably the biggest genocide of the modern world was created by Saddam Hussain.

The 1995 Bosnian massacre at Srebrenica has been ruled to be genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal.

Armed soldiers are being sent to end the evil dictator’s genocide that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

Can you believe that to this day, the Turks deny the genocide committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians ever happened?

We can not forget that The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY ruled in the Prosecutor v. Kupreskic and Others case the killing of 116 Muslims was deemed not to be genocide.

What Are the Synonyms of Genocide?

The synonyms of genocide are as follows:

  • Mass homicide
  • War crime
  • Crime against humanity
  • Unethical human experimentation
  • Wholesale killing
  • Ethnic cleansing
  • Mass destruction
  • Religious persecution
  • State terrorism
  • Extrajudicial punishment
  • Mass murder
  • Summary execution
  • Racial killing
  • Indiscriminate killing
  • Mass slaughter
  • Race extermination
  • Wholesale slaughter

What Are the Antonyms of Genocide?

The antonyms of genocide are as follows:

  • Foreign aid
  • Refuge
  • Official development assistance
  • Succor
  • Development aid
  • Help
  • Peace
  • Give birth
  • Preserve
  • Create
  • Relief
  • Support 

Recap

The noun genocide refers to the systematic destruction of a cultural group or race. 

The killing of the Tutsi by the Hutu in Rwanda back in the 90s is one of the more recent examples of genocide, however, the the Political Instability Task Force estimates that nearly 50 genocides have occured since the 1950s, resulting in more than 50 million deaths. 

Before the word genocide was coined, some languages already had words for such horrific killings, including including German (Völkermord, meaning ‘murder of a people’) and Polish (ludobójstwo, meaning ’killing of a people or nation’). 

Sources:

  1. Winston Churchill | Biography, World War II, Quotes, Books, & Facts | Britannica
  2. Genocide | definition | Cambridge English Dictionary
  3. Genocide synonyms Words and Phrases for Genocide | Power Thesaurus
  4. What is Genocide? | United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  5. Definition of the crime of genocide | UN