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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for arson
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Well, I may tell you that I have a warrant to arrest him on a charge of arson.

    The Hunted Outlaw Anonymous
  • At Courbesseaux arson and pillage were also committed on the 5th of September.

  • You're not going ashore into this hades of riot and arson, are you?

  • Grave suspicions of arson are entertained, but up to the present no arrest has been made.

    The Freelands John Galsworthy
  • arson was arson; a man in prison more or less was a man in prison more or less!

    The Freelands John Galsworthy
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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