de·​stroy di-ˈstrȯi How to pronounce destroy (audio)
destroyed; destroying; destroys

transitive verb

: to ruin the structure, organic existence, or condition of
destroyed the files
also : to ruin as if by tearing to shreds
their reputation was destroyed
a disease that destroys the body's ability to fight off illness
destroyed any hope of a return to past crackdowns … George Brock
: to put out of existence : kill
destroy an injured horse
: neutralize
the moon destroys the light of the stars
: annihilate, vanquish
… marines have been trained to close with and destroy the enemy. That's what we do.Stephen W. Larose

intransitive verb

: to cause ruin or destruction
It is proverbially easier to destroy than to construct …T. S. Eliot

Examples of destroy in a Sentence

Eventually our problems with money destroyed our marriage. All the files were deliberately destroyed. The disease destroys the body's ability to fight off illness. The bomb blast destroyed the village. The dog had to be destroyed since its owner could not prevent it from attacking people.
Recent Examples on the Web That election in 2006 occurred with full knowledge of the Hamas platform--to undermine the peace process, destroy Israel and exterminate the Jews. Bradley Gitz,, 13 Nov. 2023 His antics have destroyed billions of dollars in shareholder value, alienated advertisers, and driven away users in droves. Robert B. Tucker, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 In the 21st century, however, automation is not only destroying or devaluing working-class jobs, but those of people much further up the career pyramid. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 12 Nov. 2023 Our galaxy will eventually destroy two small nearby galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, which are screaming across space in our direction. WIRED, 12 Nov. 2023 Nonstop aerial bombardment has destroyed entire neighborhoods and killed thousands of children; Israeli evacuation orders have forced hundreds of thousands into tent cities or overcrowded apartments far from home. Boris Kachka, Los Angeles Times, 11 Nov. 2023 Seoul is destroyed, and maybe the rest of South Korea, too. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 11 Nov. 2023 And in time, the mainstream adoption of sending bots to meetings might destroy work relationships, hurt more vulnerable employees, and corrode office culture. Lila MacLellan, Fortune, 10 Nov. 2023 Last week, an Israeli airstrike destroyed an ambulance near the hospital that the Israeli military said was being used to transport Hamas fighters. Neil Collier, New York Times, 10 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French destroy-, destrui-, stem of destrure, from Vulgar Latin *destrugere, alteration of Latin destruere, from de- + struere to build — more at structure

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of destroy was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near destroy

Cite this Entry

“Destroy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​stroy di-ˈstrȯi How to pronounce destroy (audio)
: to put an end to : do away with : ruin

More from Merriam-Webster on destroy

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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