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 The United States has banned artificial intelligence after blaming it for a nuclear explosion that destroyed Los Angeles. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 26 Sep. 2023 At least 97 people were confirmed to have died in the Maui wildfires, which destroyed approximately 2,000 buildings — most of them homes. Jonathan Vigliotti, CBS News, 26 Sep. 2023 Leftist government is destroying cities all over our country. Virginia Chamlee, Peoplemag, 25 Sep. 2023 But saying that Donald Trump is trying to destroy democracy. Nbc Universal, NBC News, 24 Sep. 2023 In addition to drying out, many forest sites have been disturbed or destroyed by extensive laterite mining, Raman says. WIRED, 22 Sep. 2023 Inequalities were heightened during the pandemic as well as in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers in May 2020, which saw small businesses around the Midtown Global Market destroyed by fire and riots. Colette Davidson, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Sep. 2023 The two never spoke again, and Albin destroyed all the letters Reed had sent her over the years. Will Hermes, New York Times, 22 Sep. 2023 An eruption in 2018 Kilauea destroyed more than 700 homes. Robert Higgs, cleveland, 11 Sep. 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 1 Oct. 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

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