Definition of manslaughter
Middle English, from man + slaughter or taken as an adaptation of Old English mannslieht, mannsleaht (“homicide”), from mann (“man, person”) + slieht, sleaht (“stroke, slaying”).
manslaughter (plural manslaughters)
- An act of killing a human being unlawfully, but not willfully (as opposed to murder).
Manslaughter is a legal term for the killing of a human being, in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder. The distinction between murder and manslaughter is said to have first been made by the Ancient Athenian lawmaker Dracon in the 7th century BC.
The law generally differentiates between levels of criminal culpability based on the mens rea, or state of mind. This is particularly true within the law of homicide, where murder requires either the intent to kill - a state of mind called malice, or malice aforethought - or the knowledge that one's actions are likely to result in death; manslaughter, on the other hand, requires a lack of any prior intention to kill or create a deadly situation.
Manslaughter is usually broken down into two distinct categories: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
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