Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

January 27 is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and holocaust spiked in lookups.

Holocaust is the name given to the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during World War II. Its original meaning, “a burnt sacrifice,” reflects its etymology; it comes from the Greek word holokaustos, meaning “burnt whole.”

Caustic and cauterize both come from the word’s ultimate root, kaustos, the Greek word for “burnt.” From “burnt sacrifice,” holocaust took the general meaning “a thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life especially through fire” before being used (often capitalized) as the specific name for the Nazi horrors.

Though holocaust was sometimes used in the 1940s with reference to Nazi-perpetrated mass murder, it didn’t become established as a name for the historical event until the mid-1950s. The Hebrew word Shoah, meaning “catastrophe,” began to be used in English as a synonym for Holocaust in 1967.

Trend Watch tracks popular lookups to see what people are talking about. You can always see all Trend Watch articles here.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!