Difference between Murder, Manslaughter, and Homicide

Updated on February 20, 2018

You might think that murder, manslaughter, and homicide are the same thing, but actually they differ in a lot of ways. One thing they do have in common is that all three involve the act of killing a person.




Aaron Hernandez, found guilty of first-degree murder in the Odin Lloyd Case. Evidence states that Odin Lloyd was shot and killed in an industrial park, which then labeled the act of Aaron Hernandez as a murder.

Murder, to put it simply, is the unlawful killing of a person without justification and with malice aforethought. Usually, a person convicted of murder is sentenced to a long imprisonment, or even the death penalty. It depends on how serious the act of murder is, and it is classified by  degree, namely 1st-degree, 2nd-degree and 3rd-degree murder.


Matthew Broderick

Charged with vehicular manslaughter, Matthew Broderick’s reckless driving left two people dead. While two people indeed died as a result of his actions, it was not intentional and so he was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder.

While manslaughter also is defined as killing a human being, it is considered by law as less culpable than murder. Depending on the place of jurisdiction, the term “manslaughter” may vary in meaning. Let us take Canada for example; a charge of murder may be converted into manslaughter provided that an adequate provocation (statutory or common law used by questioning the perpetrator’s state of mind, with the intent of reducing the conviction of murder to manslaughter) is accepted by the jury.

Here are two types of manslaughter:

a) Voluntary manslaughter

It is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, meaning the perpetrator has the intention to kill or cause serious harm to the victim.

b) Involuntary manslaughter

It still is the unlawful killing of a person but without malice aforethought. It may either be constructive manslaughter (there was no intent of killing a person but it was done by committing an unlawful act like running a red light) or criminally negligent manslaughter (death caused by serious negligence or serious recklessness.)

Read more about voluntary vs involuntary manslaughter.


Homicide is the act where a person causes the death of another person, whether it be legal or illegal. There are both intentional and unintentional homicides and many other types that also include murder and manslaughter.

Criminal Homicide – a homicide that involves a criminal act, may it be accidental or purposeful. The crime however is determined by the mental state of the committing person. Murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter are included here. 

State-sanctioned Homicide – a non-criminal act of homicide conducted with the sanction of the state. An example would be capital punishment or the death penalty. While it may be legal or a state-sanctioned act, it still is an act of causing death to a person, making it a homicide.

Comparison Chart

Punishable by death, imprisonment or fine.Punishable by imprisonment or fine.Punishable by death, imprisonment, or fine. (Justified homicide may not apply to the rule of punishment).
Serious Killing CrimeLess Serious Killing CrimeKilling involved here may be state-sanctioned or an act of crime.
Classified into 1st-degree and 2nd-degree murder. (Includes other terminologies like Capital murder and Aggravated murder)Classified into Voluntary and Involuntary manslaughter.Includes murder, manslaughter, abortion, euthanasia and execution.

Murder vs Manslaughter vs Homicide

So what’s the difference between Murder, Manslaughter and Homicide? While these three do seem to be alike, they differ in terms of how the act was done and the consequences that came after. For manslaughter, it is recognized as not being the same as murder, although it may also be referred to as 3rd-degree murder. These are the killings where there is no intention to actually kill. Unlike murder, the perpetrator does not have the intention of killing. This basically separates manslaughter from being a murder.

What makes homicide different from the other two? Actually, both murder and manslaughter are under the classification of homicide. This means that murder and manslaughter are just examples of homicide. So in this sense, a homicide is a somewhat general term for a human being to be the cause of the death of another human being, whether it be legal or illegal, accidental or intentional.

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