de·​stroy | \ di-ˈstrȯi How to pronounce destroy (audio) , dē- \
destroyed; destroying; destroys

Definition of destroy

transitive verb

1 : to ruin the structure, organic existence, or condition of destroyed the files also : to ruin as if by tearing to shreds their reputation was destroyed a disease that destroys the body's ability to fight off illness destroyed any hope of a return to past crackdowns … — George Brock
2a : to put out of existence : kill destroy an injured horse
b : neutralize the moon destroys the light of the stars
c : annihilate, vanquish armies had been crippled but not destroyed— W. L. Shirer

intransitive verb

: to cause ruin or destruction it is proverbially easier to destroy than to construct— T. S. Eliot

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Examples of destroy in a Sentence

Eventually our problems with money destroyed our marriage. All the files were deliberately destroyed. The disease destroys the body's ability to fight off illness. The bomb blast destroyed the village. The dog had to be destroyed since its owner could not prevent it from attacking people.
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Recent Examples on the Web No one was injured, but the RV was destroyed and deemed a total loss. Kaila White, azcentral, "Nonprofit asking for help after mobile medical clinic destroyed in Maryvale fire," 12 Feb. 2020 Drug overdose deaths dropped for the first time in two years, a bright spot for a country that has seen the opioid epidemic destroy families and ravage communities. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "Impeached but likely to be acquitted, Trump faces foes and friends at State of the Union address," 3 Feb. 2020 For now, Spaceway-1 is powered directly off its solar panels, but the company fears that when the satellite enters Earth’s shadow and must draw on battery power, it could be destroyed—and potentially endanger other satellites. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "Space companies are scrambling to solve the problem of defunct satellites," 31 Jan. 2020 Both showed promise through seven maps of gameplay — Shotzzy picked up a clutch pair of snipes against the Huntsmen in search and destroy and iLLeY put together a few streaks. Sean Collins, Dallas News, "What we learned about the Empire at Call of Duty League launch weekend," 28 Jan. 2020 The fires have claimed at least 28 lives since September, destroyed more than 2,600 homes and razed more than 25.5 million acres, mostly in New South Wales state. Rod Mcguirk, Anchorage Daily News, "Australians save world’s only ‘dinosaur trees’ from bush fires," 16 Jan. 2020 Since the start of 2020 alone, the New South Wales in Australia wildfires have covered more than 2,300 square miles, destroyed 3,000 homes and killed over a billion animals. Emy Rodriguez Flores, Redbook, "How to Ditch Work and Make the World Better," 14 Jan. 2020 And the resulting shock wave destroys the star in an explosion called a supernova that is temporarily brighter than the rest of Earth’s home galaxy, the Milky Way, put together. The Economist, "Stellar evolution Might there soon be a supernova near Earth?," 11 Jan. 2020 The particularly brutal wildfire season has wreaked havoc on the continent, with millions of acres of land destroyed and 24 people confirmed dead so far and 64 brush fires remain uncontrolled. Brianna Provenzano,, "With Australia Ablaze, These Animals Are Still In Danger," 6 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'destroy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of destroy

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for destroy

Middle English, from Anglo-French destroy-, destrui-, stem of destrure, from Vulgar Latin *destrugere, alteration of Latin destruere, from de- + struere to build — more at structure

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Time Traveler for destroy

Time Traveler

The first known use of destroy was in the 13th century

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Statistics for destroy

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Destroy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for destroy


How to pronounce destroy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of destroy

: to cause (something) to end or no longer exist : to cause the destruction of (something) : to damage (something) so badly that it cannot be repaired
: to kill (an animal) especially because it is sick, injured, or dangerous
informal : to defeat (someone or something) easily or completely


de·​stroy | \ di-ˈstrȯi How to pronounce destroy (audio) \
destroyed; destroying

Kids Definition of destroy

1 : to put an end to : do away with destroy a building destroy a dream
2 : kill entry 1 sense 1 Officials destroyed the diseased animals.

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More from Merriam-Webster on destroy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for destroy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with destroy

Spanish Central: Translation of destroy

Nglish: Translation of destroy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of destroy for Arabic Speakers

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