Definition of exterminate
- exterminate termites and cockroaches
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We made arrangements to have the termites exterminated.
The invaders nearly exterminated the native people.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exterminate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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.
: to destroy or kill (a group of animals, people, etc.) completely
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