Definition of exterminate in English:



[with object]
  • 1Destroy completely.

    ‘after exterminating the entire population, the soldiers set fire to the buildings’
    • ‘Apart from his desire for even more power, Sejanus was also interested in exterminating the Jews.’
    • ‘And, although Germany eventually lost the country to other foreign powers after the WW I, exterminating those they regarded as their enemies remained a part of their national strategy during war.’
    • ‘He exterminates his enemies and wipes whole tribes off the map.’
    • ‘If we accept, that the way of justice, is to exterminate the life of a murderer, then why do we choose such a painful method of killing?’
    • ‘‘This level of quite horrific violence which has been perpetrated against the pygmies is part, or was part, of a campaign aimed at exterminating them,’ he said.’
    • ‘Koplow concedes that this is the primary reason why some feel strongly about not exterminating the virus stockpiles currently held in the United States and Russia.’
    • ‘It is an overwhelming fact that so many people could be totally exterminated.’
    • ‘The first Assassins were exterminated by the Mongols, a small benefit to be set against the latter's reinforcement of Asiatic despotism in Russia, Central Asia and the Near East.’
    • ‘I would lie there and hear the soldiers cursing and shooting whichever people they had randomly decided to exterminate that night.’
    • ‘It was also part of the world-empire of Ghenghis Khan, who once exterminated the Afghan city of Bamiyan to avenge a grandson slain in battle.’
    • ‘Macias exterminated a third of his populace before being executed after a 1979 coup.’
    • ‘Not only did these exterminate whole populations, they also destroyed native faith in their rulers, culture, and gods.’
    • ‘Developing foetuses cannot be defined as a ‘race’ in any meaningful sense, and a seriously planned attempt to wipe them out would swiftly exterminate the human race.’
    • ‘Christian missionaries promoted their eradication, and most had been exterminated by the beginning of the 20th century.’
    • ‘‘Genocide is the attempt to eliminate, limit or exterminate a religious ethnic national or racial group,’ he said.’
    • ‘According to the leadership's orders, bandits were to be exterminated and destroyed.’
    • ‘It's a massacre, they exterminate people for the fun of it.’
    • ‘British poets flocked to defend a régime that destroyed 20,000 churches in Spain and tried to exterminate whole classes of society, including 6,832 priests, monks and nuns.’
    • ‘If they were exterminating British prisoners of war do we seriously think that we wouldn't have done all we could to stop it?’
    • ‘Let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request; for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be massacred and to be exterminated.’
    kill, put to death, do to death, do away with, put an end to, finish off, take the life of, end the life of, get rid of, dispatch
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    1. 1.1 Kill (a pest)
      ‘they use poison to exterminate moles’
      • ‘All exterminated rats are taken away and disposed of in the proper manner.’
      • ‘In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a city official in charge of a campaign to exterminate rats said that public support for the program was adversely affected by the popularity of Mickey Mouse among children.’
      • ‘After wolves were exterminated within the park boundaries, Yellowstone filled with fat, lazy elk that hung out by streams and ate the aspen and willow seedlings down to their nubs.’
      • ‘Antibiotics would not be the weapon of choice against a bubonic plague attack, for instance, which is best thwarted by public-health measures like quarantining, tracking those infected and exterminating rodents.’
      • ‘Mr Brennan also confirmed that Rentokil had been in the area last week to begin exterminating the rodents.’
      • ‘Attempts have been made before to exterminate the birds, but these efforts failed mainly because of a lack of funds.’
      • ‘It may be that the determination with which I exterminate any flies that enter my house is causing famine in the spider population.’
      • ‘Like it or not there is no truly humane way to exterminate a fox, one way or another there is distress.’
      • ‘A new act recently passed for hunting and game protection states that hunters are free to exterminate any carnivores they encounter.’
      • ‘Popper may have exterminated some beneficial insects together with harmful ones.’
      • ‘Dr Wagner claimed that simply exterminating the street dogs was not enough because areas that are cleared of dogs quickly become repopulated.’
      • ‘At the same time the government has ordered a campaign to exterminate rats.’
      • ‘‘We had to close the school for six days in October to exterminate rats from the classrooms and the children are being taught in damp and overcrowded rooms,’ said Mr O'Connor.’
      • ‘Scottish Natural Heritage yesterday released a series of pictures of hedgehogs eating birds' eggs to underline their case for exterminating the prickly creatures on North Uist.’
      • ‘Good humans feel no compunction about exterminating inhuman creatures that prey upon the innocent.’
      • ‘It took five decades of trapping, bounties, and posse hunts to exterminate the wolf here.’
      • ‘So perhaps the best way to exterminate rats would be to launch an intensive breeding programme.’
      • ‘When Tasmanian environmentalists became aware of this fox problem around March of 2002, they begged the government to exterminate the foxes quickly while it was still possible.’
      • ‘But a federal campaign to exterminate prairie dogs in 1950s and '60s killed nearly all of the ferrets' prey.’
      • ‘First seen by Portuguese sailors in about 1507, the birds were exterminated by man and his introduced animals.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘drive out’): from Latin exterminat- ‘driven out’, from the verb exterminare, from ex- ‘out’ + terminus ‘boundary’. The sense ‘destroy’ (mid 16th century) comes from the Latin of the Vulgate.