I'm interested in translating the English word "massacre." I had always thought that the best translation was "matanza" - learned mainly from growing up in Florida and visiting Fort Matanzas National Monument in St. Augustine:


But this Spanish Wikipedia article about the shooting of settlers in Puerto Montt, Chile refers to "La masacre de Puerto Montt":


What's the difference between the two? Is it a regional difference, maybe Chilean Spanish vs. Castilian Spanish? Or is it a contextual difference, or does it indicate the speaker's attitude toward the events? What would be the preferred word in modern Spanish?

  • 2
    Note that masacre comes from French massacre and was introduced late in the XX century in the Spanish dictionary. See ¿Cuándo se introdujo “masacre” en el castellano? ¿Qué termino se utilizaba antes?.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 7:30
  • 1
    matanza is killing. masacre is a masacre.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 15:55
  • 3
    Besides the very good points made in the answers, masacre has an emotional connotation that matanza doesn't. Shooting a group of unarmed people in cold blood is a masacre and calling it like that emphasizes the inhumanity of the action.
    – pablodf76
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 22:11

2 Answers 2


The main difference is that you could make a Matanza against humans or against pigs, but a Matanza of humans, could be in a battle, in the middle of a war. A Masacre, technically is against civil people, or unarmed people.

For example, a matanza could happen when an army destroys another... a masacre when an army, or an illegal armed group, attack some village, or some protest march and kill some people.

The dictionary says (if you understands some Spanish, it would help):

Mortandad de personas ejecutada en una batalla, un asalto, etc.

Matanza de personas, por lo general indefensas, producida por ataque armado o causa parecida

  • Esto es perfecto, exactamente lo que quería saber. ¡Muchas gracias!
    – Jordan
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 14:08

Una matanza de [animales o personas]= killing, the verb is matar.

Una masacre de [animales o personas]=masacre, the verb is masacrar

Matanza is to killing as masacre is to massacre.

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