Definition of holocaust in English:


Pronunciation /ˈhäləˌkôst//ˈhōləˌkôst/


  • 1Destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war.

    ‘a nuclear holocaust’
    ‘the threat of imminent holocaust’
    • ‘For Antarctic mammals it was to be a holocaust; so many were slaughtered that by the 1830s there was virtually nothing left to kill.’
    • ‘Most of us have long forgotten the dread of nuclear holocaust that seemed almost inevitable prior to the fall of the Soviet Union.’
    • ‘Another correspondent defines as holocausts the almost total destruction of some Maori tribes by other tribes.’
    • ‘This is a racist holocaust, where people are targeted for slaughter because of their ethnicity - yet many people deny this basic truth.’
    • ‘Up to one million of the country's seven million people were slaughtered in a week-long holocaust.’
    • ‘His personal loss, the holocaust and the general exhaustion and destruction of the war coloured his work for many years.’
    • ‘He could well have a nuclear holocaust on his hands before this was over.’
    • ‘Fear of chemical warfare was replaced by the fear of nuclear holocaust, and so science was again linked to mass destruction.’
    • ‘When this song was written, people till saw the threat of nuclear holocaust as a very real thing and the lyrics describe the moment that the first bomb goes off.’
    • ‘The world came within an inch of nuclear holocaust during the Cuban missile crisis.’
    • ‘It was a real possibility that the entire world would end in a nuclear holocaust.’
    • ‘And survivors of the Rwandan genocide and the holocaust work to keep the memories of their relatives alive.’
    • ‘Why should they, on top of everything else they go through, have to suffer the terror of anticipating a nuclear holocaust?’
    • ‘The Cold War bred a generation obsessed with fear and concern about imminent nuclear holocaust.’
    • ‘It was enough to know that Israel would be a place of refuge for Jews around the world if another holocaust threatened.’
    • ‘For the first time in two generations, the threat of nuclear holocaust engulfing humanity began to abate.’
    • ‘I felt like one of the survivors after a nuclear holocaust.’
    cataclysm, disaster, catastrophe, destruction, devastation, demolition, annihilation, ravaging
    inferno, fire, conflagration
    massacre, slaughter, mass murder, carnage, butchery, extermination, liquidation, genocide, ethnic cleansing
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1the Holocaust The mass murder of Jews under the German Nazi regime during the period 1941–45. More than 6 million European Jews, as well as members of other persecuted groups, such as gypsies and homosexuals, were murdered at concentration camps such as Auschwitz.
  • 2historical A Jewish sacrificial offering that is burned completely on an altar.

    • ‘In open sacrifice, the smoke of their holocaust at the temple is sent aloft with an unspoken prayer to the old gods.’


Middle English: from Old French holocauste, via late Latin from Greek holokauston, from holos whole + kaustos burned (from kaiein burn).