Skip to main content
Nov 7, 2017
Hugh Dellar

Intermediate word of the day: suicide

Suicide is the act of deliberately killing yourself. There are a number of different ways that people usually commit suicide:

  • They may decide to hang themselves (using a rope which they tie round something high up) or shoot themselves (using a gun) or gas themselves (people sometimes sit in a car, close all the windows, turn the engine on and connect a pipe to the exhaust, so they they’re forced to inhale all the fumes – breathe in all the poisonous gases . . . or they might put their head in the oven and turn it on.)
  • Some people choose to take an overdose, so maybe they’ll take forty or fifty aspirin, for example.
  • Other people jump off high buildings or cliffs – or jump in front of a train. They may also jump off a bridge into a river and drown. There are so many suicides from some bridges that they become known locally as suicide bridge.
  • Some people choose to slit their wrists and bleed to death, usually in a warm bath.
  • As a political protest, prisoners in jail sometimes decide to go on hunger strike. They basically decide to stop eating and slowly starve themselves to death. It’s a slow form of suicide. Some prisoners are sometimes believed to be a suicide risk and are put on suicide watch, to stop them from trying to attempt suicide.

Sometimes young people get together and make a suicide pact – they make an agreement that they are going to kill themselves in the same way and at the same time. Often, when people are planning to kill themselves, they leave a suicide note, which at least offers some kind of explanation of why they’ve done what they’ve done. And, of course, I’m sure you’ve all heard of suicide bombers – terrorists who blow themselves up when they detonate a bomb they’re carrying (maybe in a suicide belt), in the hope that it will kill and injure lots of other people around them.

Suicide attempts sometimes go wrong, of course and the person survives. There’s then usually some discussion of whether they really meant to kill themselves or whether it was really a cry of help. Lots of people do survive countless suicide attempts, often because they’ve had the love and support of their friends and family. They may also have been encouraged to seek counselling or get some kind of therapy, which helps them to address their issues and move on. Wherever you are in the world, there’ll be a helpline you can call.

We also use the idea of suicide as a metaphor – to talk about something you do that’s likely to have very bad results for you. The Brexit vote to leave the European Union is often referred to as economic suicide, yet any politician who says there should be another vote on the matter would probably be committing political suicide. You can also commit social suicide by admitting to liking something extremely unfashionable or to having unpopular opinions on important issues.

Cover the text. What do you remember?


  • Can you remember two ways you could gas yourself?
  • And three places you could jump if you wanted to kill yourself?
  • Can you say five other ways people might commit suicide?
  • Can you remember five other nouns that often follow suicide?
  • Say three adjectives often used before suicide – and give examples.

Related stories in the news

A senior Welsh politician this week committed suicide after allegations of sexual abuse were made against him. There had been several allegations made against him in recent weeks and he was fired from his job last Friday. He then decided to take his own life, and the police have made it clear that they’re not looking for anyone else in connection with his death.

In Afghanistan, Isis has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing and gun attack on a TV station in Kabul, in which gunmen dressed as police killed a security guard and opened fire on staff. At least two people were killed and 20 wounded. Two suicide bombers also struck in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Sunday. The bombers targeted a Shiite mosque in the city.

Finally, the government here is being pushed to release research papers they’ve been hiding from the general public. The research is believed to suggest quite strongly that continuing with Brexit is basically an act of economic suicide, so they’re obviously not keen for people to hear more about that!


  • Can you think of any famous people who have committed suicide? How? Do you know why?
  • What’s the suicide rate like in your country? Do you think it’s going up or down? Why?
  • Do you know much about where to get help and support if someone is depressed?
  • Have there ever been any suicide attacks where you live? When? What happened?
  • Among your social circle, what kind of things would be social suicide if you said / did them?

Want to study English with Lexical Lab? Take one of our online courses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *