Transitive use of suicide

To suicide is an intransitive verb meaning “to kill oneself”. I’ve seen it sometime used it transitevly meaning “made to commit suicide” as in the following examples:

From “The Enigma of Ralph A. Blakelock” by
David Gebhard, Phyllis Stuurman, 1969

  • A collective American tragedy as well as an individual one, Blakelock in a sense was suicided by society.

From “Arts in Society” by University of Wisconsin Extension Division., 1971

  • Van Gogh was suicided by society. So, really, was Nijinsky. So was Artaud. They had awakened. (Blake survived pretty much as a bitter recluse.) These were the awakened ones amongst the sleeping millions. They had to be eliminated.

From “Eastern Europe … Central Europe … Europe” by Stephen Richards Graubard, 1991:

  • World War II foreign minister of Czechoslovakia, apparently became the very first victim of Communist murder squads when he was suicided in 1948.

Is the transitive usage of suicide grammatical and commonly acceptable? I couldn’t find any dictionary to suggest such usage.


I don’t think the users of this site really have much ability to answer the question “Is the transitive usage of suicide grammatical and commonly acceptable?”

“X was suicided by Y” doesn’t violate any general principle of syntax (it seems to behave the same syntactically as “X was murdered by Y”), so any relevant “grammar” considerations would have to be word-specific, and it’s clear that different English speakers often have different intuitions about the grammaticality of specific usages of words. It seems unlikely that the authors of the quotes that you cite made an “error” according to their own systems of grammar (although I would imagine they were conscious of the unconventionality of this expression). So you already know that it is grammatical for them (or at least, that they find it acceptable to use in print in the context of those quotes). Are you just wondering if there are any speakers who would find it ungrammatical or unacceptable? The comments beneath your question suggest that there probably are.

Whether it’s “commonly acceptable” is not really a matter of opinion, but it’s likely to be treated as one, since it’s hard to actually find the answer to this question. As the COCA query mentioned in Gnawme’s answer indicates, it’s not a common usage. It has been mentioned in the answers to two other questions about the verb suicide:

The passive-voice expression “be suicided” has been mentioned as a translation of the Chinese expression bèi zìshā 被自殺 in a Language Log post by Victor Mair: “Suicided: the adversative passive as a form of active resistance” (2010 March 24). You can see more discussion of similar expressions in the comments. Here is a brief selection of quotes that I found particularly relevant to your question:

  • Yeah, there’s ‘disappeared’, and I’ve heard ‘volunteered’ used that way

    (nemryn, 2010 March 24)

  • In 1947, the French surrealist poet Artaud wrote “Van Gogh le suicidé de la société”, a title which I gather is as odd in French as it is in English. It’s usually translated as “Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society”. He seems to have meant something like “driven to suicide by…”. I’ve always been a bit surprised that the usage didn’t catch on.

    (JKD, 2010 March 25)

  • The death of Czech FM Jan Masaryk in 1948, which the authorities called suicide–he had evidently squeezed his way out of a narrow window near the roof of a bathroom–was one of the examples that led to the phrase “he was suicided” being commonly used among those concerned in the Cold War period about the USSR, Eastern Europe. I cannot give chapter and verse but certainly in college days (forty years on) I was familiar with this usage from teachers and colleagues.

    (arthur waldron, 2010 March 25)

A note on the meaning of transitive “to suicide”

“Suicided” doesn’t always mean “made to commit suicide”. As shareeditflag‘s answer says, it can also be used to mean “murdered, but in a way that is officially treated as a suicide (or in a way that looks like suicide)”. This seems to be the intended meaning in the Graubard quote (note the use of the phrase “victim of Communist murder squads”): the Wikipedia article on Jan Masaryk says, in the section “Death”,

On 10 March 1948 Masaryk was found dead, dressed only in his pajamas, in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry (the Černín Palace in Prague) below his bathroom window. The initial investigation by the Ministry of the Interior stated that he had committed suicide by jumping out of the window, although for a long time it has been believed by some that he was murdered by the nascent Communist government. (Others in the country put it thus: “Jan Masaryk was a very tidy man. He was such a tidy man that when he jumped he shut the window after himself.”) On the other hand, many of his close associates (e.g. his secretary Antonín Sum, or Viktor Fischl) have always defended the suicide story.

In a second investigation taken in 1968 during the Prague Spring, Masaryk’s death was ruled an accident, not excluding a murder and a third investigation in the early 1990s after the Velvet Revolution concluded that it had been a murder.

Discussions about the mysterious circumstances of his death continued for some time. […] Members of Masaryk’s family—including his former wife, Frances Crane Leatherbee, a former in-law named Sylvia E. Crane, and his sister Alice Masaryková — stated their belief that he had indeed killed himself, according to a letter written by Sylvia E. Crane to The New York Times, and considered the possibility of murder a “cold war cliché”. However, a Prague police report in 2004 concluded after forensic research that Masaryk had indeed been thrown out of the window to his death.

This meaning is also documented in Wiktionary, with supporting quotes:


suicide (third-person singular simple present suicides, present participle suiciding, simple past and past participle suicided)


  1. (transitive) To kill (someone) and make their death appear to have been a suicide rather than a homicide (now especially as part of a conspiracy).

    • 1898 October 29, in Punch, or the London charivari, page 196:

      Have bought The Shanghai Chopsticks. Proprietor at first refused to sell, but when I ordered the boiling oil he became more reasonable. Editor reports that circulation is not what it ought to be. […] Will publish proclaimation, “Any person found not in possession of The Shanghai Chopsticks (current number) will be suicided.”

    • 2011, Tobias Jones, White DeathISBN, page 273:

      Even if he did get charged, he would be suicided long before he could involve one of the city’s most important politicians in the scam.

Source : Link , Question Author : user 66974 , Answer Author : herisson

Leave a Comment