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 The Clinton years showed the risks of investigative overkill in undermining public trust in Congress. Barbara Spindel, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘In Deep’ disputes the notion of a ‘deep state’ conspiracy," 30 Apr. 2020 Those numbers reflect the measures Bennett impugns as, pardon the term, overkill. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "Cowardice Isn’t Driving the American Response to COVID-19," 17 Apr. 2020 But be warned: hunting for faster upload speeds may involve paying for gigabit Internet, which is otherwise overkill for all but the most committed to live-streaming or transmitting large files regularly. Patrick Lucas Austin, Time, "What Internet Speeds Should You Really Be Paying For? Here's How to Decide," 21 Feb. 2020 If that seems like overkill, the single-drive 3TB option—at just $90—is a much more reasonable option for most. Gabrielle Hondorp, Popular Mechanics, "The 6 Best External Hard Drives to Store Anything," 31 Mar. 2020 Trump understands the precise vulnerability of his audience: Isn’t all the procedural stuff really just expert overkill, red tape, bureaucratic delay? Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "The Coronavirus and the Importance of Giving Science the Time It Needs," 25 Mar. 2020 The fact that towering centre-back Romain Saiss can likewise operate in midfield is just overkill for Wolves. SI.com, "Ranking All 20 Premier League Midfields From Worst to Best," 18 Oct. 2019 In preparing lists of military targets, no one bothered to plot their locations in relation to each other, with the result of missile overkill. Kevin O’kelly, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘The Bomb’ offers a chilling reminder of the dangerous futility of nuclear war," 7 Apr. 2020 Like wearing a hazmat suit to the office, your last sentence is overkill. Washington Post, "My employer requires a flu shot. My doctors say no.," 12 Feb. 2020

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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Statistics for overkill

Last Updated

29 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Overkill.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overkill. Accessed 26 May. 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

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