the act of a person or thing that kill.
the total game killed on a hunt.
a quick and unusually large profit or financial gain: a killing in the stock market.


that kills.
exhausting: a killing pace.
Informal. irresistibly funny.

Origin of killing

1400–50; late Middle English (gerund); see kill1, -ing1, -ing2
Related formskill·ing·ly, adverbself-kill·ing, adjectiveun·kill·ing, adjective



verb (used with object)

to deprive of life in any manner; cause the death of; slay.
to destroy; do away with; extinguish: His response killed our hopes.
to destroy or neutralize the active qualities of: to kill an odor.
to spoil the effect of: His extra brushwork killed the painting.
to cause (time) to be consumed with seeming rapidity or with a minimum of boredom, especially by engaging in some easy activity or amusement of passing interest: I had to kill three hours before plane time.
to spend (time) unprofitably: He killed ten good years on that job.
Informal. to overcome completely or with irresistible effect: That comedian kills me.
to muffle or deaden: This carpet kills the sound of footsteps.
Informal. to cause distress or discomfort to: These new shoes are killing me.
Informal. to tire completely; exhaust: The long hike killed us.
Informal. to consume completely: They killed a bottle of bourbon between them.
to cancel publication of (a word, paragraph, item, etc.), especially after it has been set in type.
to defeat or veto (a legislative bill, etc.).
Electricity. to render (a circuit) dead.
to stop the operation of (machinery, engines, etc.): He killed the motor and the car stopped.
Tennis. to hit (a ball) with such force that its return is impossible.
  1. to deoxidize (steel) before teeming into an ingot mold.
  2. to eliminate springiness from (wire or the like).
  3. to cold-roll (sheet metal) after final heat treatment in order to eliminate distortion.
Ice Hockey. to prevent the opposing team from scoring in the course of (a penalty being served by a teammate or teammates).

verb (used without object)

to inflict or cause death.
to commit murder.
to be killed.
to overcome completely; produce an irresistible effect: dressed to kill.
Slang. to feel a smarting pain, as from a minor accident; sting: I stubbed my little toe and that really kills.


the act of killing, especially game: The hounds moved in for the kill.
an animal or animals killed.
a number or quantity killed.
an act or instance of hitting or destroying a target, especially an enemy aircraft.
the target so hit or, especially, destroyed.
Sports. kill shot.

Verb Phrases

kill off,
  1. to destroy completely; kill, especially successively or indiscriminately: The invaders killed off all the inhabitants of the town.
  2. extinguish; eliminate: The bus ride every day kills off all of my energy.

Origin of kill

1175–1225; Middle English cullen, killen to strike, beat, kill, Old English *cyllan; cognate with dialectal German küllen (Westphalian). See quell
Related formskill·a·ble, adjectiveself-killed, adjectiveun·killed, adjective
Can be confusedkill kiln

Synonym study

1. Kill, execute, murder all mean to deprive of life. Kill is the general word, with no implication of the manner of killing, the agent or cause, or the nature of what is killed (whether human being, animal, or plant): to kill a person. Execute is used with reference to the putting to death of one in accordance with a legal sentence, no matter what the means are: to execute a criminal. Murder is used of killing a human being unlawfully: He murdered him for his money. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for killing

Contemporary Examples of killing

Historical Examples of killing

  • They considered civilisation a failure because it was killing off all the big game.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Admitted into our consciousness it starts its work of killing us.

  • Who knew what vengeance they might take for the killing of the Padres?

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • The Caciques did not know it, but killing the strangers or losing them had been only a part of his plan.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • A man of outdoors, it was the house caging that was killing him, keeping him back.


    W. A. Fraser

British Dictionary definitions for killing



informal very tiring; exhaustinga killing pace
informal extremely funny; hilarious
causing death; fatal


the act of causing death; slaying
informal a sudden stroke of success, usually financial, as in speculations on the stock market (esp in the phrase make a killing)
Derived Formskillingly, adverb



verb (mainly tr)

(also intr; when tr, sometimes foll by off) to cause the death of (a person or animal)
to put an end to; destroyto kill someone's interest
to make (time) pass quickly, esp while waiting for something
to deaden (sound)
informal to tire out; exhaustthe effort killed him
informal to cause to suffer pain or discomfortmy shoes are killing me
informal to cancel, cut, or deleteto kill three lines of text
informal to quash, defeat, or vetothe bill was killed in the House of Lords
informal to switch off; stopto kill a motor
(also intr) informal to overcome with attraction, laughter, surprise, etcshe was dressed to kill; his gags kill me
slang to consume (alcoholic drink) entirelyhe killed three bottles of rum
sport to hit (a ball) so hard or so accurately that the opponent cannot return it
soccer to bring (a moving ball) under control; trap
kill oneself informal to overexert oneselfdon't kill yourself
kill two birds with one stone to achieve two results with one action


the act of causing death, esp at the end of a hunt, bullfight, etc
the animal or animals killed during a hunt
NZ the seasonal tally of stock slaughtered at a freezing works
the destruction of a battleship, tank, etc
in at the kill present at the end or climax of some undertaking

Word Origin for kill

C13 cullen; perhaps related to Old English cwellan to kill; compare German (Westphalian dialect) küllen; see quell




US a channel, stream, or river (chiefly as part of place names)

Word Origin for kill

C17: from Middle Dutch kille; compare Old Norse kīll small bay, creek
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 killing

mid-15c., present participle adjective from kill (v.). Meaning "very funny" is from 1844. As a noun, "large profit," 1886, American English slang.



c.1200, "to strike, hit, beat, knock;" c.1300, "to deprive of life," perhaps from an unrecorded variant of Old English cwellan "to kill" (see quell), but the earliest sense suggests otherwise. Sense in to kill time is from 1728. Related: Killed; killing. Kill-devil, colloquial for "rum," especially if new or of bad quality, is from 1630s.



"stream," 1630s, American English, from Dutch kil, from Middle Dutch kille "riverbed," especially in place names (e.g. Schuylkill). A common Germanic word, the Old Norse form, kill, meant "bay, gulf" and gave its name to Kiel Fjord on the German Baltic coast and thence to Kiel, the port city founded there in 1240.



early 13c., "a stroke, a blow," from kill (v.). Meaning "act of killing" is from 1814; that of "a killed animal" is from 1878. Lawn tennis serve sense is from 1903. The kill "the knockout" is boxing jargon, 1950.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with killing


In addition to the idioms beginning with kill

  • kill off
  • kill or cure
  • kill the fatted calf
  • kill the goose that lays the golden eggs
  • kill time
  • kill two birds with one stone
  • kill with kindness

also see:

  • curiosity killed the cat
  • dressed to kill
  • fit to kill
  • in at the death (kill)
  • make a killing
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.