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 The motive to destroy the world and all existence grows out of his hatred of self, his unwillingness to suffer, and ultimately the unwillingness to bear with uncertainty. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Christopher Nolan’s Tenet Tackles a Christian Mystery," 25 Jan. 2021 This effort was not just directed at movement leaders at the level of King, but became a systematic effort to destroy the movement aimed at both its leadership and rank and file. Smithsonian Magazine, "A New Film Details the FBI’s Relentless Pursuit of Dr. Martin Luther King," 16 Jan. 2021 Now, Republican politicians and political talking heads alike would like us all to believe that losing a few thousand Twitter follows is akin to the carefully orchestrated attempt to destroy an entire population of people. Danielle Campoamor,, "Actually, Not Everything Needs To Be Compared To Kristallnacht," 11 Jan. 2021 Blissfully unaware that Allied cryptanalysts in Poland and at Bletchley Park in the UK had broken the Enigma code, the Nazis had standing orders to destroy their encryption devices to keep them out of Allied hands. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Divers recover a WWII Enigma Machine from the Baltic Sea," 27 Dec. 2020 But the three-movie quest to destroy the One Ring is in a category all its own. Megan Mccluskey, Time, "The Lord of the Rings Movies Are Now Holiday Movies. Here's Why," 22 Dec. 2020 Cameron pleaded guilty last month to willfully using a telephone to make a threat to destroy a building by means of an explosive. oregonlive, "Man who left fake bomb outside Deschutes County Courthouse sentenced to 1 year, 9 months in prison," 1 Dec. 2020 This is because in its effort to destroy cancer cells, chemotherapy can also attack normal, healthy cells, as SELF previously reported. Hannah Dylan Pasternak, SELF, "Marcia Cross Reveals the ‘Gnarly’ Side Effects of Her Anal Cancer Treatment," 23 Nov. 2020 The lack of shame, radicalization and willingness to destroy what is sacred -- our democracy -- is nothing short of a disgrace and stain on this country., "Readers Speak: The election is over; time for Trump to move on," 16 Nov. 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 2021

Cite this Entry

“Destroy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for destroy



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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