Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


It is perhaps as difficult as it is useless to ascertain whether “mazzacrium,” a word of the low Latin, is the root of “massacre,” or whether “massacre” is the root of “mazzacrium.”

A massacre signifies a number of men killed. There was yesterday a great massacre near Warsaw — near Cracow. We never say: “There has been a massacre of a man”; yet we do say: “A man has been massacred”: in that case it is understood that he has been killed barbarously by many blows.

Poetry makes use of the word “massacred” for killed, assassinated: “Que par ses propres mains son père massacré.” — Cinna.

An Englishman has made a compilation of all the massacres perpetrated on account of religion since the first centuries of our vulgar era. I have been very much tempted to write against the English author; but his memoir not appearing to be exaggerated, I have restrained myself. For the future I hope there will be no more such calculations to make. But to whom shall we be indebted for that?

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01