ex·​ter·​mi·​nate ik-ˈstər-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce exterminate (audio)
exterminated; exterminating

transitive verb

: to get rid of completely usually by killing off
exterminate termites and cockroaches
extermination noun
exterminator noun

Did you know?

Originally, to exterminate something was to banish it or drive it away. And it is this meaning that can be found in the Latin origin of "exterminate." "Exterminate" comes from "exterminatus," the past participle of exterminare, meaning "to drive beyond the boundaries." The Latin word exterminare was formed from the prefix ex- ("out of" or "outside") and "terminus" ("boundary"). Not much more than a century after its introduction to English, "exterminate" came to denote destroying or utterly putting an end to something. And that's the use with which the word is usually employed today.

Choose the Right Synonym for exterminate

exterminate, extirpate, eradicate, uproot mean to effect the destruction or abolition of something.

exterminate implies complete and immediate extinction by killing off all individuals.

exterminate cockroaches

extirpate implies extinction of a race, family, species, or sometimes an idea or doctrine by destruction or removal of its means of propagation.

many species have been extirpated from the area

eradicate implies the driving out or elimination of something that has established itself.

a campaign to eradicate illiteracy

uproot implies a forcible or violent removal and stresses displacement or dislodgment rather than immediate destruction.

the war uprooted thousands

Examples of exterminate in a Sentence

We made arrangements to have the termites exterminated. The invaders nearly exterminated the native people.
Recent Examples on the Web The latest motion to exterminate geese came after the Bristol Veterans Council approached the board about cleaning up the park, which honors the sacrifices of local servicemen and women. Staff Report, Hartford Courant, 23 Apr. 2024 Is this the same Hamas whose charter literally cites their goal of exterminating Israel? Voice Of The People, New York Daily News, 14 Mar. 2024 In this future, a mistake or misjudgment could exterminate humanity, as nearly happened repeatedly throughout the cold war. The Editors, Scientific American, 1 Dec. 2023 Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance, Mr. Biden tied the anti-Jewish sentiment that led to the Nazi effort to exterminate Jews directly to Oct. 7. Michael D. Shear, New York Times, 7 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for exterminate 

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

Word History


Latin exterminatus, past participle of exterminare, from ex- + terminus boundary — more at term entry 1

First Known Use

1591, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of exterminate was in 1591


Dictionary Entries Near exterminate

Cite this Entry

“Exterminate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exterminate. Accessed 17 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


ex·​ter·​mi·​nate ik-ˈstər-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce exterminate (audio)
exterminated; exterminating
: to get rid of completely
exterminate termites
extermination noun
exterminator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on exterminate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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