ex·​tir·​pate ˈek-stər-ˌpāt How to pronounce extirpate (audio)
extirpated; extirpating

transitive verb

: to destroy completely : wipe out
: to pull up by the root
: to cut out by surgery
extirpation noun
extirpator noun

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Dig Out the History of Extirpate

You don’t have to dig too deep into the history of extirpate to discover that its roots are in, well, roots (and stumps). Extirpate grew out of a combining of the Latin prefix ex-, meaning “out,” and the Latin noun stirps, “trunk” or “root.” Among the earliest definitions of extirpate in English were “to uproot” and “to clear of stumps,” as well as the broader meaning of “to destroy completely” or “wipe out.” While today we often encounter extirpate in relation to plant and animal species that have been regrettably removed from a specific region or in total, intangibles such as evil or prejudice, for example, may also be extirpated. We hope this helps but if you find yourself stumped the next time you encounter extirpate, just remember we’re rooting for you.

Choose the Right Synonym for extirpate

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 extirpate in a Sentence

the triumph of modern medicine in extirpating certain diseases
Recent Examples on the Web While black bears were nearly extirpated from Louisiana by the 1950s and 60s, the population has since rebounded. Kris Millgate, Field & Stream, 19 Oct. 2023 The presence of wolves in Maine is hotly debated after they were extirpated from the Northeast due to centuries of bounties, habitat alteration and development. Ret Talbot, Discover Magazine, 14 Aug. 2023 Gray wolves are native to California, but they were extirpated from the state around the 1920s, possibly because of hunting and other human activities. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Aug. 2023 The seals had been extirpated from New England by the early 1960s, largely a result of culling by commercial fishers. Jim Behnke, Scientific American, 2 July 2023 First came the 20th Party Congress, which President Xi Jinping used to extirpate his few remaining rivals. Jonathan Tepperman, Foreign Affairs, 19 Dec. 2022 The giant lacewing was formerly widespread across North America, but was mysteriously extirpated from eastern North America by the 1950s. James Freeman, WSJ, 2 Mar. 2023 Wild turkeys are native to Wisconsin but were extirpated by unregulated hunting in the 1800s. Paul A. Smith, Journal Sentinel, 10 June 2023 Only in the last decade of the 4th century did the attack on pagan privileges shift from one where Christianity attempted to attain parity, and then superiority, to the intent to extirpate public paganism (the elimination of the Serapeum in Alexandria in 391 being exemplary of the trend). Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 21 Jan. 2013 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'extirpate.' 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 exstirpatus, past participle of exstirpare, from ex- + stirp-, stirps trunk, root

First Known Use

1535, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of extirpate was in 1535


Dictionary Entries Near extirpate

Cite this Entry

“Extirpate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extirpate. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


ex·​tir·​pate ˈek-stər-ˌpāt How to pronounce extirpate (audio)
extirpated; extirpating
: to pull up by the roots
: to destroy completely
extirpation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on extirpate

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