Modus operandi

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For other uses, see Modus operandi (disambiguation).

A modus operandi is someone's habits of working, particularly in the context of business or criminal investigations. It is a Latin phrase, approximately translated as "method of operation".[1] In English, it is often shortened to M.O.


The term is often used in police work when discussing crime and addressing the methods employed by the perpetrators. It is also used in criminal profiling,[2] where it can help in finding clues to the offender's psychology.[3] It largely consists of examining the actions used by the individual(s) to execute the crime, prevent its detection and/or facilitate escape.[1] A suspect's modus operandi can assist in their identification, apprehension, or repression, and can also be used to determine links between crimes.[4]

In business, modus operandi is used to describe a firm's preferred means of doing business and interacting with other firms.


The plural is modi operandi. The word operandi is a gerund in the genitive case, "of operating"; gerunds can never be pluralised in Latin, as opposed to gerundives. When a noun with an attribute in the genitive is pluralised, only the head noun normally changes, just as in English with "of": "a fact of life, two facts of life".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Douglas, J. E. and A. W. Burgess, A. G. Burgess, R. K. Ressler. Crime classification manual (John Wiley & Sons, 2006) ISBN 0-7879-8501-5, p. 19-21.
  2. ^ Vronsky, R. Serial Killers (Berkley Books, 2004) ISBN 0-425-19640-2, p. 412.
  3. ^ Hazelwood, R. R, A. W. Burgess, Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation, (CRC Press, 2001) ISBN 0-8493-0076-2, p. 517.
  4. ^ Berg, B.L. Criminal Investigation (McGraw Hill, 2008) ISBN 978-0-07-340124-9

Further reading[edit]

  • Levinson, D. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment (SAGE, 2002). ISBN 0-7619-2258-X.
  • Carlo, P. The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (Pinnacle Books 1996). ISBN 0-7860-1362-1.

External links[edit]