the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder.
a general slaughter, as of persons or animals: the massacre of millions during the war.
Informal. a crushing defeat, especially in sports.

verb (used with object), mas·sa·cred, mas·sa·cring.

to kill unnecessarily and indiscriminately, especially a large number of persons.
Informal. to defeat decisively, especially in sports.

Origin of massacre

1575–85; (noun) < Middle French massacre, noun derivative of massacrer, Old French maçacrer, macecler, probably < Vulgar Latin *matteūcculāre, verbal derivative of *matteūca mallet (see mashie, mace1); (v.) < Middle French massacrer
Related formsmas·sa·crer [mas-uh-krer] /ˈmæs ə krər/, nounun·mas·sa·cred, adjective

Synonyms for massacre Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for massacre

Contemporary Examples of massacre

Historical Examples of massacre

  • At last the door was forced in and the massacre was completed.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • The second extends from the peace of Nicias to the massacre of Melos.

  • It would take only an untoward word, a false movement, to start a massacre.

    Slaves of Mercury

    Nat Schachner

  • The massacre of his family––his wife and seven children––occurred in June, 1772.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare

    Alexander Scott Withers

  • Whenever he came home drunk, he required a woman to massacre.


    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for massacre



the wanton or savage killing of large numbers of people, as in battle
informal an overwhelming defeat, as in a game

verb (tr)

to kill indiscriminately or in large numbers
informal to defeat overwhelmingly
Derived Formsmassacrer (ˈmæsəkrə), noun

Word Origin for massacre

C16: from Old French, of unknown origin
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 massacre

1580s, from Middle French massacrer "to slaughter" (16c.), from massacre (n.) "wholesale slaughter, carnage" (see massacre (n.)). Related: Massacred; massacring.


1580s, from Middle French massacre "wholesale slaughter, carnage," from Old French macacre, macecle "slaughterhouse, butchery," of unknown origin; perhaps related to Latin macellum "provisions store, butcher shop."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper