Politicide has three related but distinct meanings. It can mean a gradual but systematic attempt to cause the annihilation of an independent political and social entity. For example the destruction of the apartheid system in South Africa. Others have used the term to mean the deliberate physical destruction of a group who share the main characteristic of belonging to a political movement — this definition has been used because such groups are not covered under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). CPPCG only covers the deliberate physical destruction of national, ethnic, racial and religious groups. A third use is noted by the Oxford English Dictionary and describes political suicide by an action which irreparably damages a person's political career.

Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling uses the term in his book Politicide: Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians and his articles. He defines "the politicide of the Palestinian people, a gradual but systematic attempt to cause their annihilation as an independent political and social entity." This he believed has been present throughout Israel's confrontations with the Palestinians, but was epitomised by the thoughts and actions of Ariel Sharon.

The social scientists Barbara Harff and Ted R. Gurr use the term politicide to describe the killing of groups of people who are targeted not because of shared ethnic or communal traits (the types of groups covered by the CPPCG), but because of "their hierarchical position or political opposition to the regime and dominant groups".

An example of the use of politicide as an action which results in political suicide, was given in The Kansas City Star on 23 February, 1996: "James didn't even finish his inaugural address before committing politicide.

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