Murder in the LCSH

I was cataloging Perfect Sisters and wanted to enhance the record, like a good little cataloger.

Film poster for "Perfect Sisters"
Perfect, except for the MURDER

In the movie (and the true story on which it’s loosely based) the two sisters murder their mother. I figured I’d add a heading for Matricide.

Let’s stroll to LCSH and see what we’ve got:

Parricide (May Subd Geog)
UF Matricide

That’s right, ‘parricide’. It’s not like LCSH made it up, it’s a real word with lots of usage — just not the one I was familiar with or expecting. I guess it surprised me because it’s so easy here to make two NTs for specific types of parricide which have different treatment in the literature.


  • On matricide : myth, psychoanalysis, and the law of the mother / Amber Jacobs
  • He that smiteth the father : patricide in Sons and lovers, A portrait of the artist as a young man and Ulysses / James Stewart Brown

Well anyway, while it’d be quite possible to separate the two into their own terms, that isn’t actually what prompted me to write this post, it was just something that drew my attention to look more closely at the homicide/murder terms.

A quick definition:

  • Homicide is a killing of a person
  • Murder is a legal term for unlawful homicide.

All murders are a type of homicide, not all homicides are types of murder.

Indeed, check the LCSH, and you’ll see that Murder is an NT of Homicide. Here’s the full list of NTs:

Honor killings
Justifiable homicide
Juvenile homicide
Prison homicide
Targeted killing
Trials (Homicide)
Wrongful death

Now we’ll come back to some of those terms in a minute — here’s the full list of NTs for Murder:

Attempted murder
Felony-murder rule
Killing of the elderly
Killing of the mentally ill
Lust murder
Mass murder
Murder for hire
Police murders
Serial murders
Team murder
Trials (Murder)

The BT/NT system in LCSH is far from perfect, sometimes it’s as I (or perhaps you?) expect: A is a BT of B because A wholly contains B and B is considered a sub-type of A. But sometimes…you get these NTs that aren’t quite that venn-diagram-nice. For example Trials (Murder) is an NT of Murder, but it certainly isn’t a TYPE of Murder. It’s a type of trial (though not an NT of Trials). I know, it’s wonky.

Two things:

  1. The -cide group is totally inconsistent
    1. Wife-killing, husband-killing, and brother-killing (uxoricide, matricide and fratricide) are NTs of murder
    2. Child-killing, baby-killing, brother-killing (AGAIN), parent-killing, and tyrant-killing (filicide, infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and tyrannicide) are NTs of homicide
    3. I don’t know what’s up with fratricide being on both lists. But, because in theory any of those types of -cide could be non-criminal homicide as opposed to criminal murder it doesn’t make sense to place any of them exclusively under murder.
  2. Lynching is an NT of homicide
    1. This is messed up. Lynching, in every usage I’ve ever seen or heard refers to a murderous act. It isn’t the ‘non-criminal’, ‘potentially justifiable’, act of hanging (which is also in LCSH). An official state body can execute someone by hanging, but only an informal body/group can lynch. It isn’t homicide, it’s murder. Every time.

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