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As you can see, seems to have a lot of terms for indicate an assassin/killer/murderer (刺客 - 暗殺者 - 兇手 - 兇漢 - 殺し屋 - 殺人 - 人殺し - 殺害者 - 殺人犯 - Any other?). その言葉の意味が異なることがありますか。

What's the differences between these terms? When use them?

I think that 殺人 and 人殺し is more generic and commonly used, and 殺し屋 seems to be used for hitmans, professional killers. But I'm not sure in which context use all of these words.

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  • 人殺し: Murderer. Killer. The easiest 和語 (native Japanese) term. Often chosen when yelling at someone (人殺し! "Murderer!"). Also refers to the act of murdering (killing; murder case).
  • 殺人犯: Murderer (as a criminal, as 犯 suggests).
  • 殺害者: Murderer. Killer.
    • 殺人犯 and 殺害者 are sino-Japanese words. They sound more technical, and are preferred in formal settings or detective dramas. 殺害者 is relatively uncommon.
  • 殺し屋: Professional hitman who kills anyone for money.
  • 刺客: Assassin. Someone sent to somewhere to kill a certain important person. Often used figuratively to refer to someone who "kills someone socially/politically/economically," for example, a strong opposing candidate in election.
  • 暗殺者: Assassin. Usually used with very important person like a diplomat or president.
  • 兇手/兇漢: I haven't seen these words, so I think you can forget them :)

Another word worth memorizing would be 殺人鬼, which refers to a devilish (serial) killer like Jack the Ripper.

(EDIT: Improved the explanation of some words.)

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    "Homicide" is an act of killing (=殺人), not a person. On the other hand 殺人犯 seems to be used unambiguously for the killer. – macraf Sep 22 '17 at 1:46
  • @macraf Most monolingual dictionaries (including this and these) list the definition of "murderer". Perhaps it's a dated or rare meaning? – naruto Sep 22 '17 at 2:01
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    I had no idea, but even if it was dated, I still don't think it's appropriate. There are terms like justifiable homicide, or non-criminal homicide. I don't see how 殺人犯 could be used in these contexts. It seems unequivocally incriminating. – macraf Sep 22 '17 at 2:22
  • @macraf I see. Using 犯 is what makes it unequivocally incriminating. I think something like 正当な殺人 can refer to what's written in the linked article. – naruto Sep 22 '17 at 3:00

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