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 Some phones, such as Sony’s Xperia Z Premium devices, reach higher on this metric to match the 4K resolution that’s now standard on most TVs, but that’s generally overkill and only costs you battery life without providing any real visual benefit. Popular Science, "Smartphone screens are getting an upgrade—here are the specs to know about," 15 Apr. 2020 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 All other things kept equal, 1080p is going to look better than 720p, and 4K is best of all — though probably overkill for Zoom calls. Whitson Gordon, NBC News, "Best webcams 2020: The best webcams to buy right now," 26 Nov. 2020 This may sound like overkill, but each roll may only contain a limited amount of tape, and running out too soon can create major delays. Michael Pollick, chicagotribune.com, "The best packing tape," 23 Mar. 2021 Given that the new vaccine results are good, that might look like overkill now. Kai Kupferschmidt, Science | AAAS, "AstraZeneca reports powerful COVID-19 protection in new vaccine trial," 22 Mar. 2021 The three-row mid-size crossover segment is huge, and the best examples have some defining characteristics—the Mazda CX-9 with its upscale interior or the Dodge Durango with its overkill V-8 horsepower. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Is a Three-Row Prius," 30 Oct. 2020 Something like this would be overkill for my use case, but this system looks excellent for enterprise users. Patrick Moorhead, Forbes, "What’s Better, The New M1 MacBooks Or The Microsoft Surface?," 12 Apr. 2021 Among his regrets from the last mayor’s race, however, is rhetorical overkill. Bruce Selcraig, San Antonio Express-News, "`Misunderstood' and hoping to shed toxic image, Brockhouse rides again in San Antonio mayoral contest," 4 Apr. 2021 Mark Strong’s menacing villain is a bit of a drip, and the finale devolves into CG overkill. Tim Grierson, Vulture, "Every DC Comics Movie, Ranked," 22 Mar. 2021 For the weekend golfer, the newfound emphasis on athleticism was overkill. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "Hoodies, Jordans, Macklemore: Golf Enters Its Streetwear Moment," 9 Mar. 2021

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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overkill. Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for overkill



English Language Learners Definition of overkill

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

More from Merriam-Webster on overkill

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for overkill

Nglish: Translation of overkill for Spanish Speakers

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