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

But for regular-truck chores, a Cummins Ram 3500 4x4 is drastic overkill. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "The Ram 3500 Is Textbook Outrageous," 22 July 2019 The inclusion of both the chipotle hollandaise and a Cajun remoulade was slightly overkill. Lindsey Mcclave, The Courier-Journal, "Highland Morning may be a Bardstown Road staple, but it fails to impress," 19 June 2019 The bounty system ended in 1973 because of overkill. Fox News, "New York town learned to live with rattlesnakes," 14 June 2019 Or Cannes jury member Elle Fanning’s exuberant wearing of a saccharine-sweet floral Valentino: overkill on anyone else, perfect on this youthful talent who knows her own mind. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Brie Larson, Naomi Campbell, Gigi Hadid, and More of the Week’s Best Dressed Stars," 20 May 2019 This flurry of warm-weather reading challenges might seem like overkill. Nora Mcgreevy, BostonGlobe.com, "Slime, pig kissing, and duct tape: Educators get creative to keep kids reading over the summer," 8 Aug. 2019 Prices range from $599 for a base model with a dinky Intel Celeron processor and anemic storage and RAM all the way up to $1,599 for something that’s overkill for nearly everybody. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "Google Pixel Slate review: slapdash," 27 Nov. 2018 Peng Feng of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences warns that the use of the credit system is overkill, raising a risk that officials will abuse their power. The Economist, "Cheerleaders and police usher in a new era of trash-sorting," 4 July 2019 The killings pile up, yet Jarmusch, the master of mellowdrama, would rather die than be accused of overkill. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“The Dead Don’t Die” Does the Zombie Genre to Death," 14 June 2019

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

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).


concealment of treason or felony

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