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


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

There are now three NFL games on Thanksgiving, which seems like overkill. Jason Gay, WSJ, "27 More Rules of Thanksgiving Family Touch Football," 19 Nov. 2018 This might sound like overkill, but remember: Chlamydia can be an STD with no symptoms, meaning your partner could have it and have no idea. Amy Marturana, SELF, "5 STDs You Can Have Without Knowing It," 28 Dec. 2018 That’s borderline overkill for thinner Ultrabooks and strong enough to add several hours of use to many bulkier 15-inch laptops. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "The Ars Holiday Gift Guide 2018—good tech for the power user in your life," 4 Dec. 2018 In his podcast adaptation of the real-life events, Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard played up the noirish elements—particularly the epic nefariousness of his villain—enough to feel sometimes like overkill. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "In Dirty John, Connie Britton Brings a Cautionary Tale to Life—And According to Her, the Timing’s Never Been Better to Talk About Con Men," 23 Nov. 2018 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

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

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with overkill

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for overkill

Spanish Central: Translation of overkill

Nglish: Translation of overkill for Spanish Speakers

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