verb (used with object)

to reduce (an object) to useless fragments, a useless form, or remains, as by rending, burning, or dissolving; injure beyond repair or renewal; demolish; ruin; annihilate.
to put an end to; extinguish.
to kill; slay.
to render ineffective or useless; nullify; neutralize; invalidate.
to defeat completely.

verb (used without object)

to engage in destruction.

Origin of destroy

1175–1225; Middle English destroyen < Old French destruire < Vulgar Latin dēstrūgere (unattested), for Latin dēstruere (dē- de- + struere “to pick up, build”)
Related formsde·stroy·a·ble, adjectivehalf-de·stroyed, adjectivepre·de·stroy, verb (used with object)self-de·stroyed, adjectiveself-de·stroy·ing, adjectiveun·de·stroyed, adjectivewell-de·stroyed, adjective
Can be confuseddecimate destroy (see usage note at decimate)

Synonyms for destroy

Synonym study

1. Destroy, demolish, raze imply reducing a thing to uselessness. To destroy is to reduce something to nothingness or to take away its powers and functions so that restoration is impossible: Fire destroys a building. Disease destroys tissues. To demolish is to destroy something organized or structured: to demolish a machine. To raze is to level down to the ground: to raze a fortress.

Antonyms for destroy

1, 2. create.

Usage note Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for destroy

Contemporary Examples of destroy

Historical Examples of destroy

  • Nothing but the hand of man could destroy what he was destroying; but his hand shrank not, and it was done.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • It is a crime which, if persisted in, will destroy the Government itself.

  • They want their own poor way, and destroy the work of their hands by the sound of their tongues.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Some of us are only fit to destroy what is yet worse than ourselves.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • To treat a child wholly as an adult would be to mock and destroy it.

British Dictionary definitions for destroy


verb (mainly tr)

to ruin; spoil; render useless
to tear down or demolish; break up; raze
to put an end to; do away with; extinguish
to kill or annihilate
to crush, subdue, or defeat
(intr) to be destructive or cause destruction
Derived Formsdestroyable, adjective

Word Origin for destroy

C13: from Old French destruire, from Latin dēstruere to pull down, from de- + struere to pile up, build
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for destroy

early 13c., from Old French destruire (12c., Modern French détruire) "destroy, ravage, lay waste," from Vulgar Latin *destrugere (source of Italian distruggere), refashioned (influenced by destructus), from Latin destruere "tear down, demolish," literally "un-build," from de- "un-, down" (see de-) + struere "to pile, build" (see structure (n.)). Related: Destroyed; destroying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper