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 In this future, a mistake or misjudgment could exterminate humanity, as nearly happened repeatedly throughout the cold war. The Editors, Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2023 When Ripa returned to her seat, Consuelos shifted the energy by recounting a terrifying memory from his Illinois childhood of when a tornado nearly exterminated an entire class of middle schoolers. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, 4 Oct. 2023 Humans have spent much of history coming up with novel ways to exterminate one another, but the defining feature of modern violence is its technologization. Alissa Wilkinson, New York Times, 3 Mar. 2024 That Ukrainians have survived so many attempts of exterminating them, artificial famines, repressions. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, 22 Feb. 2024 For two decades or so, one of these issues has been whether artificial intelligence will elevate or exterminate humanity. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2024 Nearly 1,300 rodents were exterminated and the company on Feb. 18, 2022, launched a massive recall of products sold by 404 stores serviced by the warehouse. Kate Gibson, CBS News, 26 Feb. 2024 Torn away from his homeworld, this privileged son of the noble House Atreides watched as his family was exterminated by their longtime enemies, House Harkonnen, in a power play for control of the valuable spice melange. EW.com, 20 Feb. 2024 Previous research had found that dinosaur populations were declining before an asteroid exterminated them about 66 million years ago, but Atkins-Weltman said his discovery shows that the biodiversity of Caenagnathidae — the family of Anzu and Eoneophron infernalis — was thriving. Kyle Melnick, Washington Post, 1 Feb. 2024

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 22 Apr. 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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