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[ahr-suh n] /ˈɑr sən/
Law. the malicious burning of another's house or property, or in some statutes, the burning of one's own house or property, as to collect insurance.
Origin of arson
1670-80; < Anglo-French, Old French < Late Latin ārsiōn- (stem of ārsiō) a burning, equivalent to ārs- (Latin ārd(ere) to burn (cf. ardent) + -t(us) past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
arsonous, adjective
Can be confused
arsenous, arsonous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for arson
  • It is not known yet whether the fire was caused by arson or was an accident.
  • Before the poll, opponents of the referendum had threatened to disrupt the voting through intimidation and arson.
  • Details remain sketchy at this time, although there have been unconfirmed reports of arson or a possible electrical malfunction.
  • If the prevention of arson is difficult, the arson conviction rate is almost nil.
  • They have called a no-confidence debate in parliament, while staying silent on the red-shirt violence and arson.
  • My favorite story concerns systematic arson as part of a real estate scam.
  • Two other people have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
  • Cooking, smoking, appliances and arson top the list of causes.
  • Property crimes include theft, auto theft and arson.
  • The fire department suspected arson and when the family was asked by investigators if anyone would want to harm the family.
British Dictionary definitions for arson


(criminal law) the act of intentionally or recklessly setting fire to another's property or to one's own property for some improper reason
Derived Forms
arsonist, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Old French, from Medieval Latin ārsiō, from Latin ārdēre to burn; see ardent
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for arson

1670s, from Anglo-French arsoun (late 13c.), Old French arsion, from Late Latin arsionem (nominative arsio) "a burning," noun of action from past participle stem of Latin ardere "to burn," from PIE root *as- "to burn, glow" (see ash (n.1)). The Old English term was bærnet, literally "burning;" and Coke has indictment of burning (1640).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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