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

transitive verb

: 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
: to put out of existence : kill
destroy an injured horse
: neutralize
the moon destroys the light of the stars
: annihilate, vanquish
… marines have been trained to close with and destroy the enemy. That's what we do.Stephen W. Larose

intransitive verb

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The explosion flung cast-iron slugs that had been encased with the dynamite across the interior, destroying three nearby pews, and ripped a hole in the stone floor more than a square foot in size. Steven Johnson, New York Times, 17 May 2024 Adam Driver stars as Cesar Catalina, an architect who, after an accident destroys a New York City-esque metropolis, works to rebuild it as a sustainable utopia. Shania Russell,, 16 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for destroy 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'destroy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near destroy

Cite this Entry

“Destroy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


de·​stroy di-ˈstrȯi How to pronounce destroy (audio)
: to put an end to : do away with : ruin

More from Merriam-Webster on destroy

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