- terrorist (n.) in the modern sense, 1944, especially in reference to Jewish tactics against the British in Palestine -- earlier it was used of extremist revolutionaries in Russia (1866); and Jacobins during the French Revolution (1795) -- from Fr. terroriste; see TERROR (Cf. terror) + -IST (Cf. -ist) (also Cf. TERRORISM (Cf. terrorism)). The tendency of one party's terrorist to be another's guerilla or freedom fighter was noted in reference to the British action in Cyprus (1956) and the war in Rhodesia (1973). The word terrorist has been applied, at least retroactively, to the Maquis resistance in occupied France in World War II (e.g. in the "Spectator," Oct. 20, 1979).
Etymology dictionary. 2014.