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Hard to Believe Facts About Married… with Children

assassination define kid

Love and marriage, love and marriage — Married… with Children is one of those shows 90’s kids will never forget. Raunchy jokes, hilarious characters and plenty of reasons to laugh are what defined the popular sitcom.

Years have passed since the show’s last episode was aired, and new details continue to be revealed from the cast as well as the producers. Wait until you hear what the original cast had to say about a possible Married… with Children reboot!

Meghan Markle Grew Up on the Set of the Show

A little-known fact about Married… with Children is that Ed O’Neill actually has a strong connection to new duchess Meghan Markle. Her father, Thomas Markle, was the show’s director of photography, and Markle frequently visited the set after school.

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She admitted that being on the show’s set was controversial, saying “There were a lot of times my dad would say, ‘Meg, why don’t you go and help with the craft services room over there? This is just a little off-color for your 11-year-old eyes.'” We can definitely see why!

The Opening Credits Had a Surprise Cameo

The intro to the show is fairly simple, and if you were a 90’s kid, the theme song is probably stuck in your head right now. Sorry about that. If you go back and rewatch the season one opening credits, you might notice the clip of the interstate with cars.

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In the second shot of the interstate, you might notice a very familiar car. It belongs to the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation . Yes, that’s right — that entire shot was taken from the movie, and the iconic station wagon made it onto Married… with Children .

The Show Spawned Some Spin-Offs

Married… with Children was such a success, the creators wanted to move forward with several spin-offs. Three, to be exact. Top of the Heap was the most successful spin-off of the iconic sitcom. It focused on the show’s side characters, Charlie Verducci and his son, Vinnie, who was played by sitcom legend Matt LeBlanc.

assassination define kid

Bud and Kelly Bundy both made appearances on the show, but they were only minor background characters in a couple of episodes. Although it was a semi-successful sitcom, the Bundys were never seen together on the show.

Peggy Was a Pure Parody

It may look like Peggy was the ultimate 60’s housewife, but that’s because Katey Sagal insisted she look that way. The idea for Peggy’s look came from Sagal herself, not the producers.

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During her audition process, she won over the producers’ hearts when she brought her own Peggy wig, showing she definitely understood the vision for the character. She really wanted to portray Peggy as a parody of the stereotypical housewife, and it definitely paid off. Peggy Bundy had an amazingly over-the-top fashion sense that just worked for some reason.

Michael Richards Auditioned for Al Bundy

Ed O’Neill wasn’t the only one who really wanted to play the notorious 60’s dad Al Bundy. Yep, before he was Kramer on Seinfeld , Michael Richards auditioned for the leading male role on Married… with Children . The fact that he didn’t make the cut is what actually led him to his Seinfeld role!

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In a two-hour-long Married… with Children documentary, the casting director revealed that Richards wasn’t right for the role. A few years later, he was also a casting director for Seinfeld, and he was looking for someone to play Kramer. He couldn’t have done better than casting Richards for the part?

Kelly and Bud Looked a Lot Different in the Pilot

Don’t worry about not remembering a different Kelly and Bud, because the original pilot never actually aired. The siblings were originally going to be played by actors Tina Caspary and Hunter Carson. Things didn’t work out, and they were replaced by Christina Applegate and David Anthony Faustino.

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Caspary didn’t really have the right chemistry with the rest of the cast, and neither did Carson. A few years later, Caspary quit acting completely and decided to pursue dancing instead. According to IMDb, Carson also left acting behind in 2011 to focus on the behind the scenes art of filmmaking.

The Show Had a Different Name

Shows’ titles sometimes change, especially when they are first in production. Married… with Children isn’t the only one that went through this change, but this particular working title raises a lot of questions that no one but the producers can answer.

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The original working title was Not the Cosbys, and it’s certainly understandable that it was better to change the name. Not much else has been revealed about Not the Cosbys , but it’s safe to assume the producers wanted to make it clear the Bundys were not a Cosby-like — considered ideal — family.

A Small Decision Changed Ed O’Neill’s Career

It’s hard to imagine Al Bundy as anyone other than Ed O’Neill. Apparently, it was pretty easy for him to get the iconic role. He made a simple choice that ultimately changed his career.

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During his audition, O’Neill decided to walk through the front door with slumped shoulders and a typical Al Bundy sigh. That was it. That’s all he had to do to make the casting director fall in love with him. Imagine if he hadn’t made that choice during his audition. It’s an important lesson about how a small decision could change your life forever.

The Show Faced a Lot of Controversies

Because of the show’s raunchy humor and somewhat sexist jokes, the Bundy family faced a lot of criticism. Although it’s true that in modern times, Married… with Children might not be so well received, wait until you hear about a woman who made it her mission to get the show canceled.

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Even before that, Fox officials had to apologize for an episode where a young woman is shown removing her bra at a store. The producers refused to back down and continued to stay true to Al Bundy and the rest of the gang’s really questionable character.

An Angry Viewer Tried to End the Show

Terry Rakolta was a viewer who really, really didn’t like the show. In 1989, she launched a campaign to get Married… with Children off the air. “I care that there are advertisers out there paying the freight for this. They’re taking my dollars and putting them into softcore pornography.”

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The reason behind her statement was a specific episode that revolved around Peggy’s bra. At the time, showing that kind of garment on national TV at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday was considered highly inappropriate.

It Was Fox’s First Primetime Show

Married… with Children definitely made history, especially since it was Fox’s first primetime show. The network launched the sitcom on April 5, 1987. It had 259 original installments and was considered the longest-running live-action show in the network’s history.

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Although Fox did have plenty of things to worry about, considering the show’s edginess, the show definitely put the network on the map, as it competed with other iconic 80’s and 90’s sitcoms of the time. The show averaged an impressive weekly viewership of 15 million, thanks to its airing strategy.

Al Bundy’s Legacy Lives On

Because Married… with Children was such a huge sitcom hit, it clearly made plenty of history, not only for Fox but also for the TV industry as a whole. Al Bundy skyrocketed Ed O’Neill into the A-list acting world, and the character left quite a lasting mark — a physical mark, actually.

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Ed O’Neill’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star is actually located in front of a shoe store. Considering Al Bundy was a shoe salesman, this doesn’t seem like a coincidence. If the placement wasn’t planned, that’s a pretty impressive coincidence!

The Cast Was the Last to Know About Cancellation

Most of the time, TV show casts are completely aware when their show is about to get canceled, but that wasn’t the case for the cast of Married… with Children . When FOX decided to cancel the show, they didn’t notify them beforehand.

assassination define kid

In fact, Ed O’Neill revealed that he learned about it while he was on vacation. The news was read to him by a couple sitting nearby! Christina Applegate also heard about the news from her friends, rather than from the network itself. Come on, Fox! Be respectful. When you decide to cancel a show, notify the show’s cast members first.

Katey Sagal Hid Multiple Pregnancies

Sagal became pregnant three times during the show’s 10-year run. Her first pregnancy was supposed to be written into one of the episodes, but, unfortunately, she miscarried. This made the show decide to rewrite Peggy’s storyline.

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Sagal got pregnant again three years later and once again a year after that. Both of her successful pregnancies were completely hidden from the audience, and no one really knew about them until the birth was announced in the news. Ah, the joys of celebrity pregnancy before social media. It seems impossible today, doesn’t it?

The Mysterious “Lost” Episode Didn’t Air in the U.S.

This show has plenty of raunchy secrets. One of the episodes was purposefully hidden from the U.S audience. It was supposed to air in 1989, but it remained unbroadcasted until 2002. Other countries were allowed to see it, but because of the storyline, the network had to pull the plug in America.

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The story was all about the Bundys and Rhoades being on a motel sex tape, which, at the time, was considered to be a huge controversy. The episode is conveniently titled I’ll See You in Court , and when it finally aired, some of the lines were completely removed.

Al Bundy’s Legacy Wasn’t Always a Good Thing

In 1991, Ed O’Neill wanted to make sure he wasn’t only known forever as the funny and edgy Al Bundy. No one wants to be typecast, right? Well, he tried his hand at movies in a war film called Flight of the Intruder . He played a Navy captain, and there was absolutely nothing funny about the movie.

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However, because of his involvement in the popular sitcom, the film’s test audience was unable to see him as anything other than Al Bundy — so they laughed. The role was reshot with another actor at the last minute.

Al Bundy Was a Real Person (Sort of)

Well, Al Bundy’s characteristics were made of real people. In order to perfect his controversial personality, O’Neill said he based his performance on a few family members and a high school friend. He revealed that none of the people would recognize themselves on the show, because his hometown didn’t receive the Fox network at the time of the show’s debut.

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Considering just how raunchy Al Bundy was, we sincerely hope O’Neill was able to choose a variety of characteristics from said family members and friends. Imagine if Al Bundy were based on a single person!

Al and Peggy Were Almost Completely Different People

Seriously — the actors that were first considered for Al and Peggy Bundy were Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr. Considering Roseanne’s sitcom success, this probably would have worked extremely well. At least, the producers of the show thought so.

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When they offered the roles to the actors, they turned them down. Their managers said at the time that the actors were more focused on accepting roles in movies, not television. Although Roseanne Barr had a successful sitcom of her own, a role on Married… with Children would have definitely made history. But could anyone really replace Katey Sagal?

The Show Started with an Extremely Small Budget

Just like many shows, Married… with Children started with small budgets — so small, in fact, that some of the items you saw on TV were actually brought from the personal homes of cast and crew. This happened when Buck the dog went on a shopping spree in one of the earlier episodes.

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Sagal revealed that she finally got to wear a better wig in season three, and that’s how she knew the show was doing well, and their budget was improving. She said she keeps Peg’s incredible wig in a box in her garage.

Ed O’Neill Had Some Secret Talents

Al Bundy may be a simple guy, but Ed O’Neill made sure he was completely different from his iconic TV persona. He received a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2007 and has been training for 22 years, which means he released all his Married… with Children frustrations onto the gymnasium floor.

assassination define kid

Not only did he receive a Jiu-Jitsu black belt, but he received it from one of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneers, Rorion Gracie. In the early days, O’Neill was also a pretty serious football player. He won so many times he received the nickname Ed O’Winner.

Some Castmates Hated Each Other

Remember Marcy D’Arcy? She was quite the character, wasn’t she? You either loved her, or you hated her, but one thing was certain. Al Bundy and Marcy didn’t seem to get along that well on screen.

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Well, if you were able to detect that from your TV, you were also right in real life. Ed O’Neill actually revealed that he didn’t get along with Amanda Bearse (Marcy). The feeling must have been mutual because Bearse made sure O’Neill was the only Married… with Children cast member who wasn’t invited to her wedding.

The Show Never Won Any Emmy Awards

Believe it or not, the show never won any Emmy awards. That’s right — even though it was an incredible show, it never won TV’s top award. In fact, Married… with Children actually broke a record no one wants to break. It was the longest-running show that never won a single Emmy all the way until 2001. After that year, the title then belonged to Baywatch.

assassination define kid

Married… with Children did win six other awards, including ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards and TV Land Awards. Both Katey Sagal and Ed O’Neill were also Golden Globe nominees, but neither one ever took home the prize for their fabulous roles on Married… with Children.

David Faustino Had a Crush on Alyssa Milano

Imagine going into work and frequently seeing Alyssa Milano. David Faustino, a.k.a. Bud Bundy, couldn’t believe his luck when he discovered that Who’s the Boss? was shot on the stage next door. He admitted to having a huge crush on Alyssa Milano, but he apparently never did anything about it.

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Outside of his crush on Alyssa Milano, Faustino had an adventurous love life after marrying in 2004 and then divorcing three years later. In 2015, he welcomed his first daughter with girlfriend Lindsay Bronson.

Faustino Was Upset About Cancellation

David Faustino revealed that he felt the cancellation was extremely abrupt and uncalled for on Fox’s part. He was quoted as saying, “They made just a real hard, cold business decision, like, while we were shooting the last season. It was like, ‘Oh, no, we’re cutting it. That’s done.'”

assassination define kid

He also noted that the entire cast took the news pretty hard, and many still can’t believe how it happened to this day. Faustino also acknowledged the frustration fans felt when they learned the show they loved wouldn’t get any closure after its final episode because it was cancelled mid-filming.

Ed O’Neill Was One of the Highest-Paid TV Actors of All Time

Although the show started off with small salaries and a small budget, it achieved incredible salary heights once it became successful. In fact, the main stars like Ed O’Neill made more than $500,000 per episode by the end.

assassination define kid

Even more impressive, O’Neill officially made millions per episode when he joined the cast of Modern Family , but even on Married… with Children , he became one of the highest paid TV actors of all time. Some of the other highest paid stars include cast members from the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory.

The Show Had an Alternative Ending

After Ed O’Neill discovered that the show would end, he went straight to the producers to discuss his idea for the ending. It seemed pretty out there, but it was quite fitting, considering how abruptly everyone found out about the show’s cancellation.

assassination define kid

O’Neill’s idea was that the Bundy’s would win the lottery — something they’ve always dreamed about. When they go out to celebrate, a tornado would hit and wipe out everything, including the Bundys. It was a dark idea, but, then again, when you have an edgy show like this one, it could have worked.

Is the Show Getting a Reboot?

Although the cast of the show has had several reunions on and off-screen, it’s clear that nobody really wants a reboot. It may be Fox’s longest-standing live-action show, but if they wanted to make a reboot, it would have to happen without the main cast.

assassination define kid

Christina Applegate was really opposed to the reboot idea, saying “Look… no, I’m like, 20 pounds bigger and 40 years older than I was. I’m not going to put a Lycra dress on me at this point. No, it’s not going to happen.” She did say the cast frequently gets together for dinner and stays in touch.

Fox Capitalized on Strategic Airing

When Married… with Children first aired, it proclaimed itself a new voice on TV — an edgy voice — but what really helped the show lockdown its audience was the strategic timing. The network had to take into consideration the “Family Viewing Hour,” which was 8 p.m. at the time. Everything had to be family-friendly at that time and Married… with Children wasn’t.

assassination define kid

Fox decided to completely ignore Family Viewing Hour rules in order to gain that new audience. It first aired at 8 p.m. and later at 8:30 p.m. The strategy worked beautifully, as the show’s raunchy humor was well received, especially by dads.

The Edginess Inspired Other Series

Because of Fox’s bold move to introduce slightly edgier shows to its audience, Married… with Children inspired plenty of other series that did the same. It paved the way for shows like Malcolm in the Middle and Arrested Development as well as The Simpsons and Family Guy.

assassination define kid

Of course, edginess and raunchiness aren’t easy to pull off with the right balance. Many of the shows faced criticism for testing the humor limits of the public. Married… with Children became one of the greatest shows, and it was all thanks to the original edginess of Al Bundy and the gang.

The Cast Has Staggering Estimated Net Worths

We know that Ed O’Neill received more than $500,000 per episode during the last season. His estimated net worth stands at $65 Million, but he’s not the only one who is worth millions. In fact, most of the show’s cast went on to enjoy continued success after the show.

assassination define kid

Katey Sagal’s reported net worth stands at $30 million, Christina Applegate is worth about $20 million, Amanda Bearse is worth $16 million, and David Faustino accumulated $5 million. Many of the show’s stars are still known and respected among Hollywood society.


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Definition of assassination

Examples of assassination in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'assassination.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Phrases Containing assassination

  • character assassination

Articles Related to assassination

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Cite this Entry

“Assassination.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assassination. Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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From academic kids.


 murdered the alleged assassin, , in a very public manner.

In its most common use, assassination has come to mean the killing of an important person. An assassin — one who carries out the assassination — is usually motivated by ideological or political reasons. Other motivations may be money in the case of a hitman ; opposition to a person's beliefs or belief systems in the case of a fanatic ; orders from a government that are often carried about by a subversive agent such as a spy ; or loyalty to a competing leader or group.

Assassination, like companion terms such as terrorism and freedom fighter , is often considered to be a loaded term . The definition of assassination is generally much clearer than the others. Most assassins appear comfortable enough with their deed to describe it as such publicly, whereas few call themselves terrorists.

The term originally referred to a heretical Islamic order known as the Hashshashin . The word means "those who use hashish (cannabis resin)" in Arabic because, according to Crusader histories, that group used to ingest hashish before carrying out military or assassination operations, in order to be fearless. The group, known as the Nizari Ismailis , was a Shia order who believed in the notion of the hidden imam and was organized as a secret underground political order, which infiltrated areas under the control of Seljuk Turks . In 1090 the sect captured a castle called Alamut in the mountains of Northern Iran . This sect was said to carry out assassinations of the enemies of the order, or Muslim rulers they believed to be impious . The earliest known record of the word in English (dating from the early 17th century ) refers to this sect rather than its more general modern sense. Similar words had earlier appeared in French and Italian .

Benjamin of Tudela provided the first western account of the sect. Marco Polo 's elaborate account is probably fictionalized in part. He said that recruits were promised Paradise in return for dying in action. They were drugged, often with materials such as hashish (although some suggest opium and wine instead, all being, nonetheless, condemned by Islamic religious authorities and interpretations of the time) then spirited away to a garden stocked with attractive and compliant women and fountains of wine. At this time, they were awakened and it was explained to them that such was their reward for the deed, convincing them that their leader, Hassan-i-Sabah , could open the gates to Paradise. The name assassin is derived from either hasishin for the supposed influence of their attacks and disregard for their own lives in the process, or hassansin for their leader. All this history, however, is tenous, as it relies entirely on crusader-authored histories which have been traditionally very unreliable for information about native cultures.

Nowadays is known that "hashishinnya" was an offensive term used to depict this cult by its Muslim and Mongolian detractors; the extreme zeal of Nizarites and the very cold preparation to murder makes it very unlikely they ever used drugs, while there is evidence that one of the first Hassan's sons was sentenced to death by his father only for drinking a little wine. Moreover, despite many unlikely legends, they usually died along with their target (a tale tells of a mother being sad knowing her son survived a "mission"). As far as known they only used daggers (no other weapons, poison or whatever fictional records make them use) and it seems that they killed only five westeners during the time of the Crusades.

Definition problems

Unlike some topics, notably terrorism, wherein there is a substantial grey area and often bitter controversy between which specific instances qualify or even what standards should be used, the " common sense " classification of assassination stated at the outset of this article seems to stand with few objections. However, this does open larger issues concerning interpretation, notably regarding attempted killings by those with other motives — is it an assassination simply if the person is a major leader or public figure espousing a cause, or only if the assassin's reason for the attack is due to that person's status as a figurehead for a particular issue?

Notable instances in which this definitive problem might come into effect include the attempt on the life of United States President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley , who was determined subsequently to have serious psychological problems and publicly stated his intent was to get the attention of actress Jodie Foster rather than make any political statement. The killing of former Beatle John Lennon would raise the same problem — despite his outspokenness on many liberal political issues, the killer does not seem to have been more than an unstable fan (although it may be of note that the word is derived from fanatic ). The use of the term "assassination" to describe Lennon's murder is a matter of some additional debate, since Lennon was primarily an entertainer, not a political figure, and it could be argued that describing his killing as an assassination is no more appropriate than, for example, using the term to describe the murders of singers Selena Quintanilla or Marvin Gaye . In another example, although conspiracy theorists suggest the apparent suicide of Marilyn Monroe might have been a politically motivated murder, the term "assassination" is rarely, if ever, used in this context. The attempt on the life of President Gerald Ford by a member of Charles Manson 's cult could be the same; while it might perhaps be considered part and parcel of the anti-government, neo-fascist ideology to which Manson and his group adhered, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme , the assassin, was not widely considered legally competent in her judgment at the time (although she was later tried and convicted). Were these killings, assuming success, to be classified as murders or assassinations? The issue is further complicated by the fact that while Lennon was likely as outspoken politically as Reagan and Ford, and certainly as famous, Reagan and Ford were elected officials at the time, possibly requiring different criteria for Lennon's case.

One can take one of three positions (note that this consideration is of necessity strictly based upon language, not law): that the killing of someone only for political, moral, or ideological reasons constitutes an assassination (hence neither Reagan nor Lennon were the victims of assassins' attacks, while Ford was), that the killing of someone serving in politics or public office counts (thus Reagan's and Ford's attackers were would-be assassins, while Lennon's killer was not), or that anyone with a significant level of political involvement would be an assassination victim in the event of their murder (in which case all three instances would be assassinations or attempts).

While it must be acknowledged that attempting to read a person's thoughts is both imperfect and somewhat antithetical to the nature of such an issue, for the purposes of this article, the first, most conservative definition is taken. Although it is likely that the second is the most popular, the first is technically the most correct, and the third is generally considered to be too general in application. Therefore, all assassinations or attempts mentioned in the article will strictly follow the guidelines outlined at the outset to prevent confusion.

Assassination as a political tool

Some would argue that assassination is one of the oldest tools of power politics , dating back to the earliest governments of the world — Philip II of Macedon , the father of Alexander the Great , met his end this way. It is a fact, however, that by the rise of Rome assassination had become a commonly-accepted tool towards the end not only of improving one's own position, but to influence policy — the killing of Julius Caesar being a notable example, though many Emperors met such an end. In whatever case, there seems to have not been a good deal of moral indignation at the practice amongst the political circles of the time, save, naturally, by the affected.

As the Middle Ages came about from the fall of the Roman Empire , the moral and ethical dimensions of what was before a simple political tool began to take shape. Although in that period intentional regicide was an extremely rare occurrence, the situation changed dramatically with the Renaissance when the ideas of tyrannomachy (i.e. killing of a King when his rule becomes tyrannical) re-emerged and gained recognition. Many a head of state of the time fell at the hands of an assassin, such as Henri III and Henry IV of France . There were notable detractors, however; Abd-ul-Mejid of the Ottoman Empire refused to put to death plotters against his life during his reign.

As the world moved into the present day and the stakes in political clashes of will continued to grow to a global scale, the number of assassinations concurrently multiplied. In Russia alone, five emperors were assassinated within less than 200 years - Ivan VI , Peter III , Paul I , Alexander II and Nicholas II . The most notable assassination victim within early U.S. history was President Abraham Lincoln . Three other U.S. Presidents have been assassinated including James Garfield , William McKinley , and John F. Kennedy . An assassination plot against Jefferson Davis , known as the Dahlgren Affair , may have been initiated during the American Civil War . In Europe the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered World War I . However, the 20th century likely marks the first time nation-states began training assassins to be specifically used against so-called enemies of the state. During World War II , for example, MI6 trained a group of Czechoslovakian operatives to kill the Nazi general Reinhard Heydrich (who did later perish by their efforts), and repeated attempts were made by both the British MI6, the American Office of Strategic Services (later the Central Intelligence Agency ) and the Soviet SMERSH to kill Adolf Hitler .

The Cold War saw a dramatic increase in the number of political assassinations, likely in large part due to the ideological polarization of most of the First and Second worlds , whose adherents were more than willing to both justify and finance such killings. During the Kennedy era Fidel Castro narrowly escaped death on several occasions at the hands of the CIA (a function of the agency's " executive action " program) and CIA-backed rebels (there are accounts that exploding clams and poisoned shoes were employed); some allege that Salvador Allende of Chile was another example, though specific proof is lacking. At the same time, the KGB made creative use of assassination to deal with high-profile defectors such as Georgi Markov , and Israel 's Mossad made use of such tactics to eliminate Palestinian guerrillas , politicians and revolutionaries, though some Israelis argue that the targeted often crossed the line between one or another or were even all three.

Most major powers were not long in repudiating such tactics, for example during the presidency of Gerald Ford in the United States in 1976 (Executive Order 12333). Many allege, however, that this is merely a smoke screen for political and moral benefit and that the covert and illegal training of assassins by major intelligence agencies continue, such as at the School of the Americas run by the United States. In fact, the debate over the use of such tactics is not closed by any means; many accuse Russia of continuing to practice it in Chechnya and against Chechens abroad, as well as Israel in Palestine and against Palestinians abroad (as well as those Mossad deems a threat to Israeli national security, as in the aftermath of the Munich Massacre ) and Palestinians and other Arab nations against Jews in Israel and abroad.

Proponents of assassination as a political tool point out that it can be a very effective and inexpensive way to prevent loss of life. Opponents of assassination bring up a number of objections. The first is that assassination is essentially the death penalty stripped of the normal judicial safeguards that limit its use. Second, opponents of assassination question its effectiveness. Most conventional military and political organizations are robust so that the death of the leader would not cause them to collapse. Furthermore, using assassination against a terrorist or guerilla organization may result in the complete elimination of the known leaders of that organization, but create a set of unknown leaders who cannot then be located. Finally, assassination makes a negotiation of surrender impossible. Near the end of World War II, for example, Allied forces made specific efforts not to target the political and military leadership of the Axis Powers specifically so that there would be someone to authorize a surrender.

Assassination for money

Individually, too, people have often found reasons to arrange the deaths of others through paid intermediaries. One who kills with no political motive or group loyalty who kills only for money is known as a hitman or contract killer. Note that by the definition accepted above, while such a killer is not, strictly speaking, an assassin, if the killing is ordered and financed towards a political end, then that killing must rightly be termed an assassination, and the hitman an assassin by extension (in the same way that a Manchurian Candidate -style killer would be an assassin because, though they have been brainwashed to kill and have therefore no political aims, those that brainwashed them do have such aims, and if the killing can be termed an assassination, the killer must be an assassin).

Entire organizations have sometimes specialized in assassination as one of their services, to be gained for the right price. Besides the original hashshashin , the ninja clans of Japan were rumored to perform assassinations — though it can be pointed out that most of what was ever known about the ninja was rumor and hearsay. In the United States , Murder Incorporated , an organization partnered to the Mafia , was formed for the sole purpose of performing assassinations for organized crime. In Russia , the vory (thieves), their version of the Mafia, are often known to provide assassinations for the right price, as well as engaging in it themselves for their own purposes.

Assassination as military doctrine

While assassination for military purposes has long been espoused — Sun Tzu argued for such in The Art of War , as did Machiavelli in his The Prince — many modern analysts hold the belief that today such a system would not be of any significant use in a strategic way. In medieval times, for instance, an army and even a nation might be based upon and around a particularly strong, canny or charismatic leader, whose loss could paralyze the ability of both to make war. However, in modern warfare a soldier's mindset is generally considered to surround ideals far more than specific leaders. Theoretically, while the death of a soldier's leader would (and does) have a detrimental effect on morale, the comfort of the cause for which they fight is far more sustainable than such supposedly-transitive loyalty to a single person.

Also, assassinating a military leader runs the risk of eliminating a later advocate of peace, as many would argue that military leaders, seeing the face of warfare and bearing a clearer sense of the war effort's effects, have more sagacity on the subject. Not only that, but worse, there is a high chance such a killing will be treated as not only reinforcing evidence of the opponents' moral bankruptcy, but also martyr the leader, rallying still others to an enemy cause and hardening the enemies' resolve to fight — and resist entreaties to peace (indeed, the death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden , while not an assassination, led directly to the Catholic defeat at Lützen as the infuriated Swedes rallied behind their fallen leader). Such an effect can be extremely detrimental to a group or state, but supporters might argue in return that when faced with a particularly brilliant leader, there is no choice but to take the chance and, essentially, hope for a more mediocre successor (one might use the example of the many attempts to kill the Athenian Alcibiades during the Peloponnesian War , the American shooting down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto during World War II, or arguably Henri IV of France). Also, they might note that in a time-sensitive situation, such a killing could be useful if only to briefly buy time for a more permanent and effective plan to be set into motion or stall an army as reinforcements rush to the area.

There are a number of examples from World War II , the last total war , which show how assassination can be used as an effective military tool both at a tactical and strategic level. The American's perception that Skorzeny 's commandos were trying to assassinate Eisenhower during the Battle of the Bulge shows that military assassination, or the threat of it, if well timed can be a very effective tactical move. In an interview with the New York Times Skorzeny denied that he had ever intended to assassinate Eisenhower and could prove it. (Page 155, Commando Extraordinary, by Charles Foley). There is also a mention in the same book (Page 35) of a British commando raid to "capture" Rommel . If he had been removed from the board, then that might well have had strategic effects. The British, too, decided not to try to assassinate Admiral Wilhelm Canaris , head of the Abwehr ( German military intelligence ), because to do so might have improved the service.

Moral issues

Moral equivalence is also important when examining the use of assassination. Opponents of what one American officer called "trial, judgment and execution by intelligence" argue that no state deliberately training, hiring, sanctioning or harboring an assassin could hope to justify it in such a way that would satisfy its allies and neighbors, much less the affected nations (even though many might use the tactic themselves). In democracies this issue is particularly crucial; much of the impetus for engaging in military action in such states is the motivation of perceived righteousness fighting a brutal enemy, an opinion that is undermined if one's nation is actively and openly engaged in killings outside the laws of war. Many would argue that the negative morale effects alone would outweigh any possible benefits.

Supporters of assassination as a policy reply, however, that often the killing of one problematic figure can spare countless lives and years — or even decades — of warfare. An example often cited is the question of what might have come to pass had Adolf Hitler been assassinated in 1935 . Countless millions, the argument goes, would have been spared had only such intervention been taken. However, it could be argued that Adolf Hitler was just one man in a Nazi Party of hundreds, and his successor may be just as brutal (not to mention vengeful). Furthermore, it can be argued that this logic would not only justify killing Hitler in 1935 but also killing baby Adolf in his crib.

However, the widespread attention paid to deeds by dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin is seen by many as another persuasive argument towards the necessity of eliminating such individuals. The increasing specter of terrorism , too, often leads many to question why, if it is "us or them," there should be any delay in taking such action (an opponent would likely be quick to reply, however, that such an action alone leads to the loss of moral equivalence, proving their above argument, although a likely counter could be that moral equivalence is of little use to either a terrorist or one of their dead victims).

It's entirely likely that the first strategy used by a political or religious killer was a remarkably simple one: find the leader and stab or bludgeon them to death with whatever weapons were available. This would likely have occurred only in close-knit groups where security was not thought needed, such as amongst nomadic or early sedentary peoples in Mesopotamia where disagreements would be solved with vigilantism (however it's important to note that information from this far back is very sketchy and debatable in nature). As civilization took root, however, any leaders in groups began to have more and more a position of importance, and they would become more detached from the groups they ruled. For the first time, subterfuge would become a major factor in engaging in assassination.

From ancient times, then, through to the medieval period, as the rate of technology was slow so, too, would be the changes in assassins' tactics. Infiltration was now the name of the game, and commonly a would-be killer would attempt to gain access to an official or person's guard or staff and utilize a variety of methods for exterminating them, be it the same close-contact stabbing or smothering or a more advanced method, such as using poison to induce death. This, however, must be distinguished from efforts by a person or group to remove a person in order to replace them in the power structure ; for more on this, see coup d'état .

With the advent of gunpowder and far more effective ranged weaponry , however, bodyguards were no longer enough to hold back determined killers, who no longer needed to directly engage or even subvert the guard to kill the leader in question; it could be done from a great distance in a crowded square or even at a church, as with the Pazzi Conspiracy , for example. Often, muskets or rifles might be used to take down a leader from a rooftop, at greater distance, dramatically increasing the chances for survival of an assassin. Also, explosives became increasingly en vogue for deeds requiring a larger touch; for an example of this, see the article on the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament on the state opening .

In whatever case, it is interesting to note that just because more modern methods of killing became available does not mean older ones were replaced; indeed, in nations like India killings by knife or sword remain quite popular, as they do in sub-Saharan Africa (for example, with the machete ). In fact, since the development of gunpowder each region of the world seems to have its preferred methods of contract murder; besides those mentioned, explosives are quite popular in not only the Middle East but in most of Europe as well, save Northern Europe where shootings become more common, whereas in the Americas assassinations are almost exclusively performed by gunshot. One can make various cases for any of these, including range, detectability, concealability, likelihood of kill, etc.

As the Renaissance gave way to the Industrial Revolution , assassination became more and more sophisticated, right up to today. Explosives, especially the car bomb , became far more common, and grenades and landmines were not unheard of either, especially in the Middle East and Balkans (the initial attempt on Archduke Franz Ferdinand's life was with a grenade; he was on his way to visit an aide injured in the first attack when his driver stopped to ask directions and he and his wife were shot). Also, rocket-propelled grenades became an especially useful tool, given the popularity of armored cars discussed below. Today, any manner of different techniques for the elimination of an enemy — popular or not — might be utilized; the sky, as it were, is the limit. Another common option is using a sniper rifle . The only difference is that assassins and their deeds are far more public than ever before, owing not only to mass media but also far better security and control over access.


It would not be a large stretch to say that, in addition to terrorism , politician assassination is one of the biggest threats to any modern state and its government . As such, the measures to which a leader goes to avoid professional killers ranges from what an average person would consider to be farcical to the paranoid to the downright bizarre. Many would argue, though, that such measures are a lot more effective than they first appear, and that in the world of a new threat seemingly each week, no security is too much.

One of the earliest forms of defense against assassins is without doubt the bodyguard . Essentially, the bodyguard functions as a counter-assassin, attempting to neutralize the killer before they can make contact with or inflict harm upon the "principal", or protected/targeted official. This function was often executed by the leader's most loyal warriors, and was extremely effective throughout most of early human history, to the point where a direct assassination had to be replaced with carefully-planned subterfuge , such as poison (which was answered by the food taster such as the Beefeaters protecting the English monarchs), and even then such methods were often thwarted. Notable examples of bodyguards would include the Roman Praetorian Guard or the Ottoman janissaries — although, in both cases, it should be noted that the protectors often became assassins themselves, exploiting their power to make the head of state a virtual hostage at their whim or eliminating threatening leaders altogether. Indeed, assassinations both then and today are most often effective when they have the support, tacit or open, of other powerful figures. This is less a concern in the West, where organizations such as the British Special Branch and American Secret Service are noted as well-trained and apolitical protective forces. Disloyal protectors continue to be a problem in developing nations, however; Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met such an end in 1984 .

The race was on with the Middle Ages between leaders and assassins as gunpowder became predominant, each in turn trying to develop stronger and better checks against the increasing abilities of the other. One of the first reactions was to simply increase the guard, creating what at times might seem a small army trailing every leader; another was to begin clearing large areas whenever a leader was present, to the point where entire sections of a city might be shut down. Heads of state began to cease taking their armies onto the field personally around this time as well, although this was likely as much due to the increasing skills required for generalship and division of power within the government as it was for safety concerns.

As the 20th century dawned, the prevalence of assassins and their capabilities skyrocketed, and so did measures to protect against them. For the first time, armored cars or armored limousines were put into service for safer transport, with modern versions rendering them virtually invulnerable to small arms fire. Bulletproof vests were also commissioned, though not often used for political reasons. Access to famous persons, too, became more and more restrictive; potential visitors would be forced through dozens of different checks and double-checks before being granted access to the official in question, and as communication became better and information technology more prevalent, it has become next-to-impossible for a would-be killer of declared antigovernment or anarchist political affiliation to get close enough to the personage at work to effect an attempt on his or her life, especially given the common use of metal and bomb detectors . As such most modern assassinations have been committed either during a public performance or during transport , both due to weaker security and security lapses, such as with US President John F. Kennedy or as part of coups d'etat where security is either overwhelmed or completely removed, such as with Salvador Allende or Patrice Lumumba .

Some of the wilder and arguably stranger methods used for protection by famous people of both today and yesterday have evoked many reactions from different people, some resenting the separation from their officials or major figures, some comforted by the security and some lamenting the state of society that such measures are necessary. One example might be traveling in a car protected by a bubble of clear bulletproof glass , such as the Popemobile of Pope John Paul II (built following an extremist's attempt at his life). Frederick William I of Prussia had an entire command of soldiers above two meters of height, and would reportedly go to great lengths to obtain more. Many leaders, such as Josef Stalin or the Argentinian junta were so possessed by paranoia that they executed their opponents en masse , with the death toll ranging from hundreds to millions. Still others go into seclusion, rarely heard from or seen in public afterwards, such as writer Salman Rushdie or eccentric inventor Howard Hughes , though it is more likely that Hughes was concerned about germs than about assassination. A more exotic form of protection is the use of a body double. A body double in this case is a person who is built similar to the person he is expected to protect and made up to look like him. The body double then takes the place of the person in high risk situations. Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein are known to have used body doubles.

It is important to note that, in the final analysis, it is thought by many that if a person or group is committed beyond reason or concerns for self-preservation towards the removal of a certain person or leader from not only their position but this plane of existence, then the chances are better than fair that any security measures taken will come to naught. The ninja of Japan and suicide attackers are both groups known for pursuing every avenue for however long necessary to accomplish their 'hit'. Often, such people or groups would operate without concern for their own life in order to gain the slightest chance of eliminating their mark. Certain leaders, notably Abraham Lincoln , were thought to have wrestled with this supposed inevitability during difficult times (with some, like Lincoln's, proving prohetic). In the end it comes down to will — if the will of the would-be assassins to execute their target surpasses that of their security to save them, or the will of the targeted person to survive, then success for a killer may be a matter of time.

Source for conspiracy theories

Assassinations are a classic subject of conspiracy theories. The assassination of a prominent figure is a singular event which can dramatically change the course of public affairs. Those drawn to conspiracy theory are led to ask, in the aftermath of an assassination, Who benefited from this death? Though some assassinations are committed by lone individuals, and many others by aboveboard governments (such as that of Leon Trotsky ), and other assassinations are committed as the result of a provable conspiracy, there have been several assassinations whose purposes and evidence remain mysterious in the public eye — and suspicious to most people.

Best-known among assassination conspiracy theories in the United States are those dealing with a rash of seemingly politically motivated deaths in the 1960s , notably those of U.S. President John F. Kennedy , Senator Robert F. Kennedy , and civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X .

Investigations and scientific testing and recreations into the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's death have not settled the question of who killed him. That U.S. public opinion considers this still to be an open issue is suggested by three polls in 2003. An ABC News random telephone poll found that just 32% (plus or minus 3%) of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, while 68% do not believe Oswald acted alone. [1]  ( http://abcnews.go.com/images/pdf/937a1JFKAssassination.pdf ) The "Discovery Channel" poll (sampling method not given) reveals that only 21% believe Oswald acted alone, while 79% do not believe Oswald acted alone. [2]  ( http://poll.discovery.com/servlet/viewsflash?jfk=6&cmd=tally&pollid=jfk&results=data%2Fdsc%2Fpackage%2Fjfk.results.html&submit.x=51&submit.y=6 ) The "History Channel" poll (self-selected responses) details that only 17% of respondents believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, while 83% do not believe Oswald acted alone. [3]  ( http://www.historychannel.com/jfk/jfk_poll_results.jsp ) It should, however, be noted that opinion polls of this type are often subject to selection and response biases.

Similar theories have arisen around the assassination of Beatle John Lennon and the attempted assassination of U.S. President Ronald Reagan . In recent years conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales have made headlines.

  • Assassin's Guild
  • The Assassination Bureau
  • assassination market
  • asymmetric warfare
  • Hashshashin
  • mark (slang)

Related lists

  • List of assassins
  • List of assassinated people
  • List of unsuccessful U.S. Presidential assassination attempts

Further reading

  • Cloak and Dollar (A History of American Secret Intelligence)  ( http://www.yale.edu/yup/books/074743.htm ) by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
  • A short article on the U.S. policy banning political assassination since 1976  ( http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/11/04/us.assassination.policy ) from CNN. See also Ford 's 1976 executive order  ( http://www.ford.utexas.edu/library/speeches/760110e.htm#assassination ) .
  • American Domestic Terrorists and Assassins  ( http://www.historyguy.com/biofiles/domestic_terrorists_and_assassins.html )

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Categories : Assassins | Murder | Arabic words

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Murder facts for kids

Murder is when one person kills another person on purpose . It is only called "murder" when it is against the law . If a person does something that makes someone else die, it is often known as manslaughter or homicide . This is true if it was an accident . Sometimes, a death caused by someone else may not be a crime . For example, in some situations, killing may be self-defense . A person who commits murder is called a murderer.

The legal definition of "murder" and "manslaughter" may be different in different countries , and is very much argued on: for example, killing in war is not usually called "murder" by those who take place in the war. Killing in self defense (if people being attacked kill someone who is attacking them) is usually not "murder".

Attempted murder

Assassination, images for kids.

Attempted murder is a crime in England , Wales , Northern Ireland , states in the USA , and in other jurisdictions. Attempted murder, or "attempt murder" in common law countries , is when someone tries to kill another person. Just planning a murder is not enough. The act must come close to, but does not actually take the life of the other person.

"Assassination" is a word which means murdering someone for a reason. The word is most used when the person who was killed was a famous celebrity or was a person involved in politics .

Homicide Rate

UNODC : Per 100,000 population (2011)


Intentional homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2009

  • This page was last modified on 31 July 2023, at 17:16. Suggest an edit .


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