over·kill | \ˌō-vər-ˈkil \
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 \

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


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 law has been widely used for sanctions over terrorist acts and using it in a trade dispute could be seen as overkill. Lingling Wei, WSJ, "White House Retreats From Plans for Strict Limits on Chinese Investment," 27 June 2018 The rhetorical overkill used to describe a mediocre but well-intentioned presidency was so over-the-top it was parodied in a famous Simpsons bit: Carter was a Republican bogeyman in 1988, and when Bill Clinton came along. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Poll: Barack Obama Was the Greatest President of Our Lifetime," 11 July 2018 The sequence’s style, energy and Kim’s coiled glee save it from tipping into overkill. Elizabeth Kerr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion' ('Manyeo'): Film Review," 27 June 2018 Adding group video calls to FaceTime has been a long time coming, and the new interface looks intuitive enough (even if support for up to 32 users seems like overkill). James Vincent, The Verge, "Six apps, services, and features Apple copied for iOS 12," 5 June 2018 The Times spoke with Johnson and Thurber about the challenge of trying to bring back the old-school action movie in today’s era of Rotten Tomatoes scores, generally dwindling movie-star drawing power and comic-book franchise overkill. Josh Rottenberg, latimes.com, "Dwayne Johnson and Rawson Marshall Thurber on 'Skyscraper' and the state of Hollywood," 5 July 2018 The new law, passed by the Senate in March and by the House on May 22, seeks to ease what critics say was regulatory overkill. Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor, "Post-crisis banking rules: now altered but not undone," 30 June 2018 The ceremonial start on the future home of the Louisville City FC soccer team was a study in overkill and humidity Thursday afternoon. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Soccer stadium start signals new possibilities for Possibility City," 28 June 2018 The festival is to the music world what the town is to the rest of Southern California: a lovably eccentric jewel, a tiny explosion of beauty, weirdness and overkill. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "A Quirky Violinist and a Festival to Match," 11 June 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

The first known use of overkill was in 1957

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English Language Learners Definition of overkill

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

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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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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