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 Building a new, improved land of opportunity requires exterminating vermin. Matt Thompson, Spin, 10 Sep. 2023 All while hewing to a quasi-messianic mission to elevate humanity rather than exterminate it. Steven Levy, WIRED, 5 Sep. 2023 Once a rat steps into the trap, it is immediately shocked and exterminated. Brandi Fuller, Better Homes & Gardens, 14 Aug. 2023 After being almost exterminated by plume hunters in the late 1800s, roseate spoonbills have made a remarkable (though incomplete) comeback. Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Sep. 2023 Using high voltage powered by four C batteries, the trap immediately and humanely exterminates rodents who enter the trap. Brandi Fuller, Better Homes & Gardens, 14 Aug. 2023 The June Bug is exterminated and left out of the film, and sorely missed. Samuel Maude, ELLE, 11 Aug. 2023 In 2022, 14 black bears were exterminated by agencies and an additional six were killed by citizens. Doc Louallen, USA TODAY, 1 Aug. 2023 He’s planted kelp close to one of his ancestral village sites, near a cove called Hole in the Wall, where the Eyak people hid out to avoid being exterminated more than a century ago. Juliet Eilperin, Anchorage Daily News, 31 July 2023 See More

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 2 Oct. 2023.

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

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