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

Definition of destroy

transitive verb

1 : 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
2a : to put out of existence : kill destroy an injured horse
b : neutralize the moon destroys the light of the stars
c : annihilate, vanquish armies had been crippled but not destroyed— W. L. Shirer

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 Sergei Mironov, an outspoken hawk in Russia’s Parliament, said on Saturday, claiming that his country’s new intercontinental ballistic missile could destroy Britain in a single strike. New York Times, 3 May 2022 Alexis de Tocqueville wondered if democratic equality would eventually destroy liberty. Wsj Books Staff, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 Enslavers were absolutely petrified that this would quite literally destroy them by killing their capital [in other words, enslaved people]. Karin Wulf, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Apr. 2022 Going beyond helping the victims, the larger point is that international justice is key to the international system that Putin longs to destroy. Dahlia Scheindlin, The New Republic, 18 Apr. 2022 The academic literature is filled with evidence of how entrenched managers destroy firm value. Amiyatosh Purnanandam, Forbes, 18 Apr. 2022 Some of the changes are in response to complaints that the city’s loose rules may destroy the look, feel and character of single-family neighborhoods. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Mar. 2022 Wingate also said the court was confident the suspension would not destroy Baffert’s career and noted the trainer’s intent to continue. NBC News, 22 Mar. 2022 The year saw a fire destroy part of Windsor Castle and the collapse of Charles, Anne and Andrew's marriages — as well as the ongoing scandals surrounding Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Erin Hill,, 16 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of destroy

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

History and Etymology for destroy

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

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

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Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Destroy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for destroy


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

Kids Definition of destroy

1 : to put an end to : do away with destroy a building destroy a dream
2 : kill entry 1 sense 1 Officials destroyed the diseased animals.

More from Merriam-Webster on destroy

Nglish: Translation of destroy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of destroy for Arabic Speakers


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