over·​kill | \ ˌō-vər-ˈkil How to pronounce overkill (audio) \
overkilled; overkilling; overkills

Definition of overkill

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

: to obliterate (a target) with more nuclear force than required


over·​kill | \ ˈō-vər-ˌkil How to pronounce overkill (audio) \

Definition of overkill (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a destructive capacity greatly exceeding that required for a given target
2 : an excess of something (such as a quantity or an action) beyond what is required or suitable for a particular purpose publicity overkill an overkill in weaponry
3 : killing in excess of what is intended or required

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Examples of overkill in a Sentence

Noun Yes, we need a new car, but this huge truck seems like overkill. the song already borders on the maudlin—the addition of a syrupy string accompaniment would just be overkill
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These guys need nine lives, as much as they’ve been overkilled. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Paul Daugherty: We're living in the age of hype," 25 Aug. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The process of editing down the colors of the rainbow wasn’t easy — after all, how does one determine how many blues are necessary and how many are overkill? Michelle Brunner, Washington Post, "Paint companies have a new idea for overwhelmed consumers: Fewer options," 25 Nov. 2019 In this interpretation, the many allegations against him are not evidence so much as overkill. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "Harvey Weinstein’s Sympathy Campaign," 17 Dec. 2019 The government’s stand is a bit of an overkill given that the question of ownership of data is a complex one. Sangeeta Tanwar, Quartz India, "“The Indian government’s stand on data localisation is a bit of an overkill”," 5 Dec. 2019 In addition, Sanandaji said that two additional stories would have been overkill and would have likely fueled more neighborhood opposition. J.k. Dineen, SFChronicle.com, "Home SF was meant to boost housing along transit. But can it fulfill its promise?," 3 Dec. 2019 The blackout is the latest in a series of massive outages by the country’s largest utility, including one last month that affected nearly 2.5 million people and outraged local officials and customers who accused the utility of overkill. Washington Post, "PG&E again cuts power over fire threat," 20 Nov. 2019 This is a bit of overkill for what NASA seeks with its modest CLPS program, as theoretically Starship could one day deliver as much as 100 tons to the lunar surface. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "One part of NASA seems serious about fostering aerospace innovation," 19 Nov. 2019 My lone quibble: The three slices of cheddar were overkill and didn’t completely melt. Michael Mayo, sun-sentinel.com, "Review: A fresh look at ‘old’ Hard Rock restaurants Kuro, the Bol and a gilded burger at Hard Rock Cafe," 24 Oct. 2019 Photo: William Steel/NHFU Angela Bassett puts an appropriately theatrical spin on the narration, which seems poised at times to topple into the quicksand of overkill. John Anderson, WSJ, "‘The Flood’ Review: Overflowing With Beauty," 22 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'overkill.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of overkill


1957, in the meaning defined above


1957, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for overkill

Time Traveler

The first known use of overkill was in 1957

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Cite this Entry

“Overkill.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overkill. Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for overkill


How to pronounce overkill (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of overkill

disapproving : something that is much larger, greater, etc., than what is needed for a particular purpose

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More from Merriam-Webster on overkill

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for overkill

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with overkill

Spanish Central: Translation of overkill

Nglish: Translation of overkill for Spanish Speakers

Comments on overkill

What made you want to look up overkill? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


dull or mediocre

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