verb ter·mi·nate \ ˈtər-mə-ˌnāt \
|Updated on: 2 Aug 2018

Definition of terminate

terminated; terminating
1 : to form an ending
2 : to come to an end in time
3 : to extend only to a limit (such as a point or line); especially : to reach a terminus
1 a : to bring to an end : close
  • terminate a marriage by divorce
  • terminate a transmission line
b : to discontinue the employment of
  • workers terminated because of slow business
c : to form the conclusion of
  • review questions terminate each chapter
2 : to serve as an ending, limit, or boundary of

Examples of terminate in a Sentence

  1. The branches of that tree terminate in flower clusters.

  2. The rail line terminates in Boston.

  3. You have to terminate the program before the computer will shut down properly.

  4. His contract was terminated last month.

  5. He was terminated last month.

  6. Plans are being made to terminate unproductive employees.

Recent Examples of terminate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'terminate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of terminate

15th century

in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Synonym Discussion of terminate

close, end, conclude, finish, complete, terminate mean to bring or come to a stopping point or limit. close usually implies that something has been in some way open as well as unfinished.
    • close a debate
end conveys a strong sense of finality.
    • ended his life
conclude may imply a formal closing (as of a meeting).
    • the service concluded with a blessing
finish may stress completion of a final step in a process.
    • after it is painted, the house will be finished
complete implies the removal of all deficiencies or a successful finishing of what has been undertaken.
    • the resolving of this last issue completes the agreement
terminate implies the setting of a limit in time or space.
    • your employment terminates after three months



adjective ter·mi·nate \ ˈtər-mə-nət \

Definition of terminate

: coming to an end or capable of ending

Origin and Etymology of terminate

Middle English, from Latin terminatus, past participle of terminare, from terminus

TERMINATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of terminate for English Language Learners

  • : to end in a particular way or at a particular place

  • : to cause (something) to end

  • : to take a job away from (someone)

TERMINATE Defined for Kids


verb ter·mi·nate \ ˈtər-mə-ˌnāt \

Definition of terminate for Students

terminated; terminating
: 2end, close
  • I terminated my membership.

Word Root of terminate

The Latin word terminus, meaning “boundary” or “limit,” gives us the root termin or term. Words from the Latin terminus have something to do with boundaries or limits. A term is a limited period of time during which something, such as school, occurs or exists. To determine is to set exact boundaries for something. To terminate, or cause to end, is to take to a boundary or limit.

Law Dictionary


verb ter·mi·nate \ ˈtər-mə-ˌnāt \

legal Definition of terminate

terminated; terminating
: to come to an end in time or effect
1 : to bring to a definite end especially before a natural conclusion
  • terminate a contract
— compare cancel, rescind
2 : to discontinue the employment of


play \ˌtər-mə-ˈnā-shən\ noun

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having an air of easy unconcern

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