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 town of Paradise, which was largely destroyed in the Camp Fire, is being rebuilt with underground lines. Kurtis Alexander,, "‘Radical’ tree trimming: Critics say PG&E’s rush to stop fires may hurt California forests," 15 Aug. 2019 His family had fled from nearby Panjwai district after his school was destroyed because the Taliban had been using it as a militant hideout. Washington Post, "During Afghan elections, schools double as voting places — and become Taliban targets," 14 Aug. 2019 After the cake was destroyed and the wild tossing was over, the bride, groom and attendants were covered with the mess, as was the whole room, and they all were exhausted., "Dear Annie: Woman struggles with honoring marriage vows while trying to figure out her sexual orientation," 14 Aug. 2019 Debris and damaged cars were left strewn around the area, while at least four power poles were destroyed. Fox News, "Tornadoes strike Amsterdam, Luxembourg, leaving several hurt as wild storms slam Europe," 12 Aug. 2019 Gently placing it into Nazife’s hands, the old woman’s ruined face (one eye has been destroyed by a wound or infection) lights up with childlike joy. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Honeyland Is a Stinging Allegory for Man-Made Disaster," 9 Aug. 2019 Eighty-five people perished, and nearly 20,000 structures were destroyed. Matt Simon, WIRED, "New IPCC Report Shows How Our Abuse of Land Drives Climate Change," 8 Aug. 2019 The residents of Beirut came to rely on service taxis after trams and railways were destroyed during the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. The Economist, "How Beirut’s shared taxis cope with Uber," 8 Aug. 2019 When the sun rose on Burke on Wednesday, its 600 or so residents discovered that the civic center and the building that contains the high school and middle school were destroyed, as were some homes in the county. Lauren M. Johnson, CNN, "A South Dakota town is picking up the pieces after a destructive tornado," 7 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for destroy

Last Updated

18 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for destroy

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on destroy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with destroy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for destroy

Spanish Central: Translation of destroy

Nglish: Translation of destroy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of destroy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on destroy

What made you want to look up destroy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make or get by devious means

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