AAFS American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
Abrasion An injury to the skin that removes the epithelial layer.
Accelerant A flammable substance used to create and spread fire.
Accident Reconstruction Using physical evidence a re-create a crime or accident scene.
Acid Phosphate Test A test to reveal the presence of seminal fluid, appearing purple when positive.
Adipocere A waxy, soap-like substance that forms on corpses during decomposition under specific conditions. Also known as grave wax.
AFIS Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
Aggravating Circumstances Conditions which make a crime more serious.
Agglutination The tendency of blood cells to clump together in reaction to an antibody.
Algor Mortis The reduction in body temperature after death.
Allele Any of multiple forms of a gene located at the same point on a particular pair of chromosomes.
ALS (Alternative Light Source) Any alternative source of light generally used for enhancing latent prints, biological fluid, and trace materials.
Antemortem Prior to death.
Anthropology The science of the origin, culture, and development of human beings. In forensics, this mainly involves the analysis and identification of skeletal remains.
Anthropometry Devised by Alphonse Bertillon, a method of using a persons key body measurements as a means of identification.
Apnoea See asphyxia.
Arches A characteristic pattern of fingerprint ridges, possessed by approximately 5% of the population.
Arson Intentionally causing a fire to destroy the property in a criminal manner.
Asphyxia Death caused by suffocation as a result of the lack of oxygen and increase of carbon dioxide in the blood. Also known as apnoea.
Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy A method of analysing gunshot residue.
Autoerotic Accident A death usually occurring from asphyxia produced by masturbatory rituals.
Autopsy The internal medical examination of a body used to determine the cause and circumstances of death.
Autoradiograph Also known as an autorad, this is the final product in DNA analysis, having a similar appearance as a barcode.
Ballistics The science of projectiles, particularly bullets.
Barefoot Morphology The science of reading footprints in order to establish the pace, size, and body weight of the individual.
Bertillonage Invented by Alphonse Bertillon, a now obsolete method of classifying human beings by a set of body measurements.
Blood Analysis See serology.
Blood Group One of the four ways to categorise a person based on the antibodies and antigens in their red blood cells; A, B, AB, and O.
Blood Pooling The congestion of blood in the lowest areas of a dead body. See hypostasis.
Blood Spatter The impact of blood on surfaces.
Blood Spatter Pattern Analysis The examination of blood spatter patterns to determine the events which took place before, during and after the spilling of the blood.
Bloodstain Interpretation The interpretation of the shape, size, orientation, and distribution of bloodstains.
Botany The scientific study if plants, relevant to forensics in terms of plant matter found at a crime scene or on an item of evidence.
Brainprint Technology used to determine whether a brain registers a memory, particularly a criminal act.
Buccal Swab A swab taken from the mouth to collect epithelial cells for DNA analysis.
Bullet Track The path a projectile takes as it passes through matter.
Bullet Wipe A dark, ring-like mark found around an entrance wound, composed of lead, carbon oil and dirt.
Cadaveric Spasm The sudden rigidity of the muscles immediately after death.
Calibre The internal diameter of the gun barrel or bullet, expressed in hundredths of an inch.
Capital Punishment The death sentence.
Cartridge Case A small cylinder of metal or pasteboard which holds a charge of powder and often a bullet.
Case Linkage The discover of links between cases which were previously thought to be unrelated.
Cast-off Stains Blood spatter produced when a bloodied object is pulled back from a blow.
Cause of Death An injury or disease that ultimately leads to death of the individual, generally determined by medical examiners or coroners.
Chain of Custody A method of keeping track of who has handled a piece of evidence, when, and for what purpose. Vital in ensuring evidence is not damaged or altered in any way.
Character Disorder A personality disorder manifested in patterns of behaviour.
Choke The constriction of a shotgun barrel to reduce the spread of the shot, thus increasing its range.
Chromatography A technique used to separate a sample into its components based on the speed at which they move through a stationary matrix.
Chromosome A component found inside most human cells consisting of long coils of DNA. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one set inherited from each parent.
Circumstantial Evidence Evidence from which a logical conclusion of a fact may be drawn.
Clavicle The collarbone linking the scapula and sternum.
CODIS The Combined DNA Index System, the FBI database of genetic information.
Cold Case An unsolved case which is still open but no longer being actively investigated.
Comparison Microscope Two compound microscopes combined into a single unit, allowing objects to be placed under each and viewed side by side through a single eyepiece.
Composite Drawing A sketch composed of a suspect produced from one or more eyewitness description.
Compound Microscope A basic microscope composed of two lenses which focus a magnified image of the subject on the retina of the observers eye.
Computer Forensics The application of computer technology and techniques to aid legal investigations.
Concentric Fractures Patterns of cracks in glass pierced by a projectile such as a bullet which runs between the radial fractures.
Contact Wound A wound occurring when the firearm is fired whilst placed against a surface.
Contusion A soft haemorrhage from a blunt trauma.
Coroner A medical examiner or elected official who may, in some jurisdictions, lead a death investigation.
Corpus Delicti The essential body of facts that suggest a crime has occurred. From the Latin body of crime.
Cortex The central portion of a hair containing the pigment which gives hair its colour.
Crime Scene Reconstruction The use of evidence to determine the events which occurred at a crime scene.
Crime Scene Staging The alteration of a crime scene in order to reduce its evidentiary value.
Criminalistics The field of science applying science to law and criminal investigations.
Criminal Profiling The analysis of the crime scene and crime patterns to assign relevant characteristics to a perpetrator in order to aid law enforcement in narrowing the field of suspects.
Criminology The study of criminal activity and legal procedure.
Cuticle The protective outer sheath of a hair, composed of a series of overlapping scales.
Cyanide A highly poisonous water-soluble chemical composed of carbon and nitrogen.
Dactyloscopy The development and identification of fingerprints.
Decomposition The disintegration of body tissues after death.
Delta A characteristic junction in a loop ridge fingerprint pattern.
Density Gradient Tube Equipment used for measuring the distribution of different particles in a soil sample by establishing the point at which they are suspended in a tube filled with layers of liquid of different densities.
Density Test A test in which glass fragments are floated to establish if they are from the same source.
Dental Stone A casting material commonly used for making impressions of footprints and tires.
Diatom Microscopic algae found in bodies of water, beneficial in narrowing down the source of a water sample.
Diminished Capacity A psychological defence indicating the inability of an individual to understand the nature of a crime or to control their actions.
Disarticulation The separation of bone joints.
DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid. The genetic material contained in cells.
DNA Profile A composite of genetic markers uniquely characterising an individual.
DNA Profiling Creating a DNA fingerprint from a biological sample for use in comparison and the identification of an individual.
Dry Drowning Death caused by asphyxiation resulting from muscular paralysis brought on from the shock of the victim falling into the water.
Electroencephalograph A device used to measure the electrical activity of the brain, converting the information into a readable report.
Electron Microscope A microscope which uses a beam of electrons to focus a specimen.
Electrophoresis A technique used to separate DNA fragments. The DNA is placed in a charged gel, the charge causing the fragments to move towards one pole at different rates.
Entomology (forensic) The scientific study of insect evidence to aid a legal investigation.
Equivocal Evidence Evidence that supports more than one theory.
Evidence Any items, documents and statements that are included in a legal investigation for the jurys or judges consideration in the determination of an individuals guilt or innocence.
Expert Witness An individual with a specialised knowledge of a certain field that can assist in the understanding of complicated information or offer an expert opinion.
Femur The thighbone, the longest bone in the body. In anthropology, this may be measured and used as a guide to the height of the individual.
Fibre A thin, threadlike material, often from some kind of fabric.
Fingerprint The unique pattern created by the ridges found on the palm side skin of fingers and thumbs.
Firing Pin A device in a gun which strikes the primer, igniting the projectiles propelling charge.
Floater A corpse found in water, often floating due to the built up on gas in the abdomen resulting from decomposition.
Forensic Science The application of all forms of science to aid legal investigations.
Forgery An attempt to replicate the original item and pass it off as authentic.
Formaldehyde A pungent gas used as a disinfectant, antiseptic, and fixative for tissues.
Gas Chromatography A method of breaking down a compound into its individual components as they travel through a non-reactive gas.
Gel Electrophoresis A method used to divide a DNA sample into its components through the application of an electric charge.
Gene The segment of DNA that codes for the production of a particular protein.
Geographic Profiling The utilisation of the geographic relationship between crime scenes to conclude any similarities or other points of interest.
Graphology The art of determining individual characteristic traits of a person based on his or her handwriting.
Grid Search A crime scene searching pattern. The scene is segmented into smaller areas, each of which is individually searched for evidence.
Gun Shot Residue Also known as GSR. The unburned powder propelled from a gun when a bullet is fired. It will often be found on the clothing or skin of the shooter or victim.
Hemastix A presumptive blood testing tool.
Haemoglobin The protein in a red blood cell responsible for carrying the oxygen in the bloodstream.
Haemorrhage A severe bleed.
High-Risk Victim An individual who is continuously exposed to danger, such as drug users and prostitutes.
HITS Homicide Investigation racking System, Washington States database used to link violent crimes through signature analysis.
HOLMES The Home Office Large/Major Enquiry System, the UKs main police computer system.
Homicide Murder, a death caused by another person.
Hyoid A u-shaped bone at the base of the tongue which supports the tongue muscles.
Hypostasis Also known as lividity. The pooling of blood at the lowest parts of the body. Usually commences between six and eight hours after death has occurred.
Hypoxia Decrease in oxygen to the brain.
Immunoassay A test which utilises antibodies to identify and quantify substances.
Impression Evidence The evidence left by anything that leaves a kind of impression at the scene or on an item, such as footprints, tire tracks, or toolmarks.
Indent An impression left on paper caused by the force from a pen tip.
Infrared A band of the electromagnetic spectrum which cannot be seen by the human eye.
Infrared Spectroscopy A type of spectroscopy using infrared light.
Inorganic Compound A substance that is not carbon-based.
Insanity The legal term for a mental disease or defect that may essentially absolve the person of responsibility.
Iodine Fuming A form of developing latent fingerprints using the fumes of iodine.
Ion Detector A device that detects the presence of accelerants in the air.
IP Address The specific numeric address of a computer.
Jurisdiction The authority to exert power legally within a specific area.
Kastle-Meyer Test A presumptive blood test.
K9 A specialised evidence response team utilising specially trained dogs to train certain scents, such as drugs, accelerants, and individuals.
Laceration The splitting or tearing of the skin.
Larvae The young of an insect prior to metamorphosis.
LASER Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A device used to produce a beam of optical radiation by stimulation of electronic, ionic, or molecular transitions to create energy.
Latent Fingerprint A fingerprint left by deposits of the skins oils, usually requiring some form of treatment in order to visualise it.
Lie Detector See polygraph.
Ligature An object used to bind or strangle someone.
Livescan Technology allowing the fingertips to be scanned rather than rolled in ink to obtain a fingerprint.
Lividity See hypostasis.
Livor Mortis See hypostasis.
Locards Exchange Principle Every contact leaves a trace. A theory stating that anyone who enters a crime scene will leave something behind or take something away.
Locus A specific site on the chromosome.
Low Copy Number LCN. A new technique used to obtain a DNA profile from a fingerprint or small amount of tissue.
Luminol A chemical reagent used to visualise latent blood stains.
Manner of Death The way in which death was caused; homicide, suicide, accidental, natural, or undetermined.
Mass Killer An individual who kills many people at the same time.
Mass Spectrometry A method of identifying the components of a compound by bombarding the sample with electrons. Medical Examiner In some locations, the individual who runs a death investigation or performs autopsies.
Microspectrophotometry A method of identifying a sample by emitting a beam of electrons over the specimen and analysing the election emissions created.
Mitigating Circumstances Factors that may diminish the degree of guilt in a criminal offence, such as age or influence of drugs.
Mitochondrial DNA A form of DNA found in the mitochondria, indicating maternal heritage only.
MO Method of operation, from the Latin Modus Operandi. The method by which a crime is committed.
Multiple Personality Disorder Also known as dissociative identity disorder. A psychological condition in which the individual appears to have two or more distinct personas.
Mummification The desiccation of a body due to very hot and dry conditions, or exposure to very cold temperatures.
NCAVC National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime. A subdivision of the FBIs Behavioural Science Unit.
NDNAD National DNA Database, the UKs database of DNA profiles.
Neutron Activation Analysis A technique used on trace evidence by bombarding the sample with neutrons in a nuclear reactor.
Nucleus The section of the cell containing the DNA and RNA.
Odontogram A file containing an individuals dental information.
Odontologist An individual specialising in dentistry, particularly bite mark impressions.
Odontology The study of the teeth, including their anatomy, growth and diseases.
Orthotolidine A solution used to determine whether a stain contains blood.
Ossification The process by which bone is formed. A mesh of collagen fibres is formed, after which a polysaccharide is produced. Finally, small calcium salt crystals are placed in this polysaccharide to form the bone.
Ouchterlony Test A test used to determine whether a blood stain is of animal or human origin.
Palynology The study of pollens.
Pathology A branch of medical science studying the cause, nature and effect of diseases.
Pattern Evidence Evidence which can be read from a specific pattern, such as a show impression.
Perimortem The period of time immediately before death.
Petechial Haemorrhage A minute, pin-like haemorrhage that occurs beneath the skin.
pH The measure of acidity or alkalinity of a substance.
Phenolphthalein A substance used alongside hydrogen peroxide which produces a deep pink colour in the presence of blood.
Phrenology A now discredited theory that believes the shape of an individuals head can indicate their personality.
Physical Evidence Any object relevant to the occurrence of a crime.
Plasma The standard constituent of blood in which the various blood cells are carried.
Polygraph A machine used to monitor bodily functions which may change when an individual lies.Not admissible in court.
Polymer A long-chain molecule composed of many repeated units.
Polymerase Chain Reaction PCR. A technique that replicates a section of a DNA strand, allowing millions of copies to be produces from a minute sample.
Portrait Parle A 19th century system for regularising verbal descriptions of a suspects facial features.
Postmortem After death.
Postmortem Interval PMI. The time since death.
Precipitin Test A test used to determine whether a blood sample is of animal or human origin, done so by the treatment of human anti-serum.
Primary Flaccidity The general relaxation of the entire muscular system after death. This will usually only last between two to eight hours.
Probe A fragment of DNA which carried the complementary code for a base sequence.
Prostate Specific Antigen PSA. A substance in human seminal fluid used to confirm the presence of human semen.
Psychological Profile A method of gathering speculative information regarding a suspects psychological makeup in order to aid the investigation.
Psychological Stress Evaluator A device used to measure stress levels in a recorded voice.
Psychopathy A personality disorder defined by specific antisocial behaviour and often including a lack of guilt or remorse.
Puncture Wound An injury caused by the piercing of the body, often by a hand-held object.
Putrefaction One of the final changes to take place in the human body, essentially the anaerobic bacterial digestion of the remains.
Questioned Documents Any item containing writing that requires analysis to confirm the likes of authorship or authentication.
Radial A pattern formation in a fingerprint in which a loop forms and opens towards the thumb.
Radial Fractures Star-shaped fractures formed when a sheet of glass is pierced by a bullet, originating on the opposite side to the initial impact.
Radius The outer and shorter of the two human forearm bones.
Rape Kit A collection of items used to process a rape victim for items of evidence that may indicate the perpetrator.
Refractive Index The measure of degree through which light passes through a particular substance.
Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) - The original method for obtaining a DNA profile, in which the molecule is cut into pieces and the different lengths analysed.
Rhesus Factor The presence of absence of a particular antibody, allowing for further differentiation between blood of different individuals.
Ridge Characteristics The endings, bifurcations, enclosures and similar ridge details in a fingerprint.
Rifling The lands and grooves cut into the barrels of a gun.
Rigor Mortis The stiffening of the body after death due to a chemical reaction occurring in the muscles. Usually appears between two and eight hours after death, lasting between sixteen and twenty-four hours.
Saponification A process which may occur during putrefaction in which parts of the body are converted into adipocere (see adipocere).
Scanning Electron Microscope A device which uses beams of electrons to form the image of a specimen.
Scent Pad Used to store a scent for use with trailing dogs.
Sciatic Notch The characteristic shape of the part of the hipbone which may indicate the sex of a skeleton.
Secondary Flaccidity The secondary relaxation of the bodys muscles following death.
Seminal Pertaining to semen.
Serrated Saw-like. Having a row of sharp, tooth-like projections.
Serial Crime Any type of crime occurring in a pattern indicating a single offender.
Serial Killer An individual who has murdered three or more people with a cooling-off period in between.
Serology The analysis of bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and semen.
Short Tandem Repeats (STR) A method used to obtain a DNA profile after replication through PCR has occurred. STRs are short sequences in the DNA molecule that repeat themselves at numerous points in the genome.
Signature Crime A crime scene bearing the individual stamp of a particular offender.
Slippage The sloughing off of the flesh on a cadaver.
Spalling The cracking of concrete in a fire, indicating how hot it burned.
Spectrometry The detection of wavelengths of light.
Speculative Search A search based on information rather than actual evidence.
Spree Killer An individual who murders numerous people with no cooling-off period in between.
Stippling Minute burn marks left by gunpowder as it leaves the gun, also known as tattooing.
Strangulation The prevention of respiration by the compression of the air passage.
Striations Fine markings left behind on an item, such as on a bullet, caused by rifling in the barrel.
Super Glue Fuming A method of developing latent fingerprints using the fumes of cyanoacrylate or a similar substance, which adheres to the oils in the fingerprint, visualising it.
Swap File A file used to temporarily store information when a systems memory is low.
Tape Lift An adhesive used to lift trace evidence from a crime scene or object.
Tattooing See stippling.
Thin-Layer Chromatography A technique used for separating a sample into its components based on the speed at which they move up a plate coated thinly with silica gel.
Tibia The shin bone, commonly used to calculate the height of an individuals skeletal remains.
Tomography Obtaining an X-ray image of a selected layer in an object.
Toxicology The study of drugs, poisons and their effects on the body.
Trace Evidence Minute pieces of evidence found at the crime scene, including fibre, hair, glass, seed, and soil.
Trajectory The path of a fired projectile.
Trauma A physical injury caused by external violence.
Ulnar A loop pattern in a fingerprint which opens towards the little finger.
Ultra Violet UV light, used to fluoresce various substances, including urine, saliva and semen.
Vertebrae One of the twenty-four segments of the human spinal column.
ViCAP Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, the FBIs nationwide data information centre.
Victimology The study of victim information in order to obtain details of a perpetrators opportunity and selection process.
Visceral Temperature The Temperature of the internal organs, particularly those within the abdomen and thorax.
Vitreous Humor The fluid filling the eyeball. This changes after death, potentially being useful in determination of the post-mortem interval.
Voiceprint A graph electronically composed of the amplitude and vibrations of the human voice.
Whorls A pattern within a fingerprint in which the ridge makes at least one complete circuit.
Wick Effect The effect of an individuals body fat feeds a smouldering flame, burning the person to ash without surrounding items being burned.
Wisdom Teeth The third molar teeth, usually erupting in the late teens to early twenties.
Y Incision An incision made during an autopsy, a cut from shoulder to shoulder, meeting at the sternum, and down to the groin. This exposes the internal organs for examination.
Zoology The study of animals, their life and behaviour.