• synonyms


[ hol-uh-kawst, hoh-luh- ]
/ ˈhɒl əˌkɔst, ˈhoʊ lə- /


a great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fire.
a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
(usually initial capital letter) the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually preceded by the).
any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.


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devastation, extermination, catastrophe, massacre, slaughter, genocide, carnage, annihilation, inferno, extinction, immolation

Nearby words

holo-, holobenthic, holoblastic, holocaine, holocarpic, holocaust, holocene, holocord, holocrine, holocrine gland, holocrystalline

Origin of holocaust

1200–50; Middle English < Late Latin holocaustum (Vulgate) < Greek holókauston (Septuagint), neuter of holókaustos burnt whole. See holo-, caustic
SYNONYMS FOR holocaust
Related formshol·o·caus·tal, adjectivehol·o·caus·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for holocaust

British Dictionary definitions for holocaust


/ (ˈhɒləˌkɔːst) /


great destruction or loss of life or the source of such destruction, esp fire
Also called: the Churban, the Shoah (usually capital) the mass murder of Jews and members of many other ethnic, social, and political groups in continental Europe between 1940 and 1945 by the Nazi regime
a rare word for burnt offering
Derived Formsholocaustal or holocaustic, adjective

Word Origin for holocaust

C13: from Late Latin holocaustum whole burnt offering, from Greek holokauston, from holo- + kaustos, from kaiein to burn
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 holocaust



mid-13c., "sacrifice by fire, burnt offering," from Greek holokauston "a thing wholly burnt," neuter of holokaustos "burned whole," from holos "whole" (see holo-) + kaustos, verbal adjective of kaiein "to burn." Originally a Bible word for "burnt offerings," given wider sense of "massacre, destruction of a large number of persons" from 1833. The Holocaust "Nazi genocide of European Jews in World War II," first recorded 1957, earlier known in Hebrew as Shoah "catastrophe." The word itself was used in English in reference to Hitler's Jewish policies from 1942, but not as a proper name for them.

Auschwitz makes all too clear the principle that the human psyche can create meaning out of anything. [Robert Jay Lifton, "The Nazi Doctors"]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for holocaust


[ (hol-uh-kawst, hoh-luh-kawst) ]

The killing of some six million Jews (see also Jews) by the Nazis during World War II. To the Nazis, the Holocaust was the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem,” and would help them establish a pure German master race. Much of the killing took place in concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Dachau. (See Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.