What is Violence?

There is a video on YouTube that has an interview where the interviewee gets upset over the interviewer making a mention about the use of violence to achieve political goals.

So, what is violence?

Has the definition of violence changed over time?

Is violence defined by society?

Using modern media, we can look at the definition of violence. At Wordnick, they use many different sources to give the definitions of a word. Here an individual can look up the definition of violence:

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing: crimes of violence.
  • n. The act or an instance of violent action or behavior.
  • n. Intensity or severity, as in natural phenomena; untamed force: the violence of a tornado.
  • n. Abusive or unjust exercise of power.
  • n. Abuse or injury to meaning, content, or intent: do violence to a text.
  • n. Vehemence of feeling or expression; fervor.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Extreme force.
  • n. Action intended to cause destruction, pain, or suffering.
  • n. Widespread fighting.
  • n. Injustice, wrong.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The quality or state of being violent; highly excited action, whether physical or moral; vehemence; impetuosity; force.
  • n. Injury done to that which is entitled to respect, reverence, or observance; profanation; infringement; unjust force; outrage; assault.
  • n. Ravishment; rape; constupration.
  • transitive v. To assault; to injure; also, to bring by violence; to compel.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The state or character of being violent; force; vehemence; intensity.
  • n. Highly excited feeling or action; impetuosity; vehemence; eagerness.
  • n. Injury done to anything which is entitled to respect, reverence, or observance; profanation; infringement; violation. See the phrases below.
  • n. Unjust or unwarranted exertion of power; unjust force; force employed against rights, laws, liberty, or the like; outrage; injury; hurt; attack; assault.
  • n. Ravishment; rape
  • n. In law: Any wrongful act of one person, whereby either he or his instrument of wrong-doing is brought into contact with the limbs or body of another person.
  • n. The overcoming or preventing of resistance by exciting fear through display of force.
  • n. The unlawful use of physical force.
  • n. Synonyms 1 and 2. Passion, fury, flerceness, wildness, rage, boisterousness.
  • To do violence to; assault; injure.
  • To bring by violence; compel.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an act of aggression (as one against a person who resists)

  • n. a turbulent state resulting in injuries and destruction etc.

  • n. the property of being wild or turbulent

There is also Dictionary.com:


1. swift and intense force:

the violence of a storm.

2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment:

to die by violence.

3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws:

to take over a government by violence.

4. a violent act or proceeding.

5. rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language:

the violence of his hatred.

6. damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration:

to do editorial violence to a text.

TheFreeDictionary.com is also a place to find the definition of violence. There are many websites available for acquiring the definitions of words.

Now, there are the book dictionaries. My library contains a few different dictionaries which are fairly old.


Starting with the Macmillan Dictionary for Children that was Published by Macmillan Publishing Company of New York in 1987:

It defines violence as:

Strong physical force.

Then there is the World Book Dictionary 1970 Edition which defines violence as:

1. rough force in action

2. rough or harmful action or treatment

3. Law. a. the illegal or unjust use of physical force to injure or damage persons or property.

b. intimidation by threatening such use of force.

c. an instance of using such force or intimidation.

4. a. strength of action, feeling, etc.

b. violent, passionate, or immoderate conduct or language; fury; passion.

5. the improper treatment or use of a word; distortion of meaning or application.

6. rape.

Then there is Websters Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary from 1972 which defines violence as:

1. a. exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse.

b. an instance of violent treatment or procedure.

2. injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation.

3. a. intense, turbulent, or furious often destructive action or force.

b. vehement feeling or expression : Fervor

c. an instance of such action or feeling : a tendency to violent action.

d. jarring quality : Discordance.

4. undue alteration of wording or sense.

Then there is the New Dictionary of the English Language, 1925 edition, that defines violence as:

physical or moral force; vehemence; unjust strength or power; applied to any purpose; assault; outrage; crime; rape; eagerness; infringement.

Violence is a noun.

It appears there are many commonalities between all the definitions of violence over the years. For example, the word force is used in the first definition of almost every dictionary. It also appears that violence isn’t just limited to actions that physically harm an individual which may give further legitimacy to the belief that actions done by an individual or government, even if it isn’t physically violent, is still violence.

Perhaps to fully answer the questions above, it may be necessary to find out what individuals truly believe is violence. Also, it may be necessary to define some of the words used to define violence.

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