Difference between “He died” and “He was killed”?

Both refer to the fact that the individual has stopped living. It’s the manner in which this event happened that differentiates the meaning of the two words.

`Killed’ suggests that the death was not due to natural causes. For example, when you say, `The minister was killed in her sleep’, it suggests the person was murdered while she was asleep. Someone did something that resulted in the minister’s death – maybe the person stabbed/shot/smothered the minister while she was sleeping. `Kill’ suggests that the death was caused by some external agency — it was not natural. 

When you say that someone `died’, what you are implying is that the individual’s death was due to natural causes – there was no hanky-panky involved. No one was the cause of his/her death. `Died’ is not as strong as `killed’.

Source:  ‘Know Your English’ Series – The Hindu Daily, October 03, 2005

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2 thoughts on “Difference between “He died” and “He was killed”?

  1. I guess this explanation is not sufficient to explain the difference between the two words. Even when I started to learn English at elementary school, I knew that “to be killed” was related “to be murdered”. But when I started to follow the CNN news and other media and I heard “….some 40 people were killed by the tornado…”, I was completely disappointed that my knowledge was incomplete.

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