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

transitive verb

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


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over·​kill ˈō-vər-ˌkil How to pronounce overkill (audio)
: a destructive capacity greatly exceeding that required for a given target
: 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
: killing in excess of what is intended or required

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
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, 15 Apr. 2020 These guys need nine lives, as much as they’ve been overkilled. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, 25 Aug. 2017
This news story was unquestionably huge — even though media critics accused networks of overkill and exploitation. Brian Stelter, Rolling Stone, 11 Apr. 2024 The director, Jeff Wadlow, establishes to the point of overkill that Taylor resents the existence of her stepmother, but the film still makes Jessica into too much of an interloper. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 8 Mar. 2024 Having the contestants film some of their confessionals in menacing-looking interrogation rooms is also a bit of overkill. EW.com, 20 Nov. 2023 Each Kuiper spacecraft likely weighs a few hundred kilograms at launch, so a dedicated Atlas V launch into low-Earth orbit for just two of Amazon's satellites is a bit of overkill. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 6 Oct. 2023 Totaling seven hours of music, this exhaustive document of the Purple One’s foray into New Jack Swing and hip hop suffers a bit from 12-inch dance-remix overkill. Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, SPIN, 20 Dec. 2023 The fight between the two in Raids Again isn’t all that exciting, with Godzilla tearing out Anguirus’ neck and then lighting him on fire with his atomic breath in an all too quick act of overkill. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Dec. 2023 That might sound like overkill, but the palate tells a different story. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 31 Dec. 2023 This sporadically fun but exhausting hot mess provides 202 minutes of hyperventilating overkill for star Ranbir Kapoor as a tycoon’s favorite son whose anger-management (as well as daddy) issues are off the charts. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 2 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'overkill.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1957, in the meaning defined above


1957, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of overkill was in 1957

Dictionary Entries Near overkill

Cite this Entry

“Overkill.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overkill. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a much greater capacity for destruction than is needed for a particular target
: an excess beyond what is needed or suitable
advertising overkill

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