I discussed this recently with some friends and different explanations regarding the words etymology were mentioned. I did some research and confirmed these two:

  1. from Arab. aššāšīn "hashish eater" (pl.), to arab. ašīš "herbs, weeds, hemp plant, hashish", Member of a political-religious Islamic sect in the medieval. The sect's founder had his followers drink a hashed potion to make them compliant for the murders he ordered

  2. from Italian - Assassinare, which literally means to kill someone. Furthermore it was mentioned by a friend that this word originated from latin and meant back then something like "throwing a stone at someone" - I could not find anything in this direction

Does anybody know which background is the original one?

  • 4
    assassinare comes from Arabic aššāšīn, not from Latin or anything to do with stones
    – Tristan
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 16:14
  • 1
    Well, actually it is ḥaššāšiyyīn.
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 20:06
  • 1
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 20:09
  • So does that mean, that the italian word assasinare occurred from arabic? Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 6:34
  • @MatthiasMohr Yes, it was an Islamic sect that Europeans encountered during Crusader times. They were known for targeting and quietly killing high-ranking members of enemy factions, and so gave their name to the practice of assassination in European languages who heard reports of them. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


The origin appears to come from the name of the Nizari Ismaili state founded by Hassan-i Sabbah who termed his followers Asāsiyyūn أساسيون, the root of which translates as "fundamentals". Marco Polo is credited with confusing that term with "hashish" الحشيش. A subset of the members of the sect, the فِدائيّين‎ fidāʼīyīn, engaged in military actions such as "assassination".

  • 1
    A most dubious conjecture.
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 20:10
  • These assassins also engaged in the consumption of hashish, popular legend has it. Popularized by Robert A. Wilson, I believe.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 17:53
  • 1
    This answer needs citations Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 6:57
  • The Marco Polo one is sourced on Wikipedia; the etymology of Asāsiyyūn isn't but should presumably be clear to an Arabic speaker. Many words related to foundation certainly have the consonants of ﺃَﺳَﺎﺱ ʔasaas as their root (but verifying the etymology of this particular one is beyond my knowledge). Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 16:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.