It's my opinion that the word functions to aggrandize the people we're talking about, and also attributes mysterious, unknowable intentions to them in a way that furthers their causes, and hinders our own efforts to stop them by immobilizing us with fear and awe.
If you read about criminal behavior (as we mystery writers love to do:) you can find pretty much everything you need to know about "terrorists". So I think it would be healthier for our society if we called them "criminals".
I was grieved this morning to read about the bombing in Kabul, and last week the attack in Manchester, and it made me want to share a practice which I've had for some time. I try to translate in my own mind. Every time I hear or read the word "terrorist" or "terror" or "terrorism", I try to hear "criminal" or "crime" or "criminal acts."
I do this for my own well-being. Because criminals and crime are not new. It is an age-old struggle to fight criminals and crime, and there are good ways to do it, and bad. But as human beings, it's worth remembering, we've had some success at it.
Thinking of it this way, I am still distressed and horrified by the violence, but it allows me to feel hopeful. As Mr. Rogers said, "look for the helpers" in any scene of violence. So I remember that yes, there are criminals, and I look for the crime fighters, which allows me to feel practical and determined, instead of feeling hopeless and at a loss.