[ mas-uh-ker ]
/ ˈmæs ə kər /
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See synonyms for: massacre / massacrer on Thesaurus.com

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.
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Origin of massacre

First recorded in 1575–85; (noun), from Middle French massacre, noun derivative of massacrer,Old French maçacrer, macecler, probably from unattested Vulgar Latin matteūcculāre, verbal derivative of unattested matteūca “mallet” (see mashie, mace1); (verb) from Middle French massacrer

synonym study for massacre

See slaughter.


mas·sa·crer [mas-uh-krer], /ˈmæs ə krər/, nounun·mas·sa·cred, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does massacre mean?

A massacre is a large-scale killing of people or animals, especially defenseless ones.

The word implies that such a killing was especially unnecessary, brutal, and indiscriminate. An event in which soldiers kill many civilians could be called a massacre. Mass shootings are massacres.

Massacre can also be used in a more general way to refer to killing on a large-scale, as in This war will result in the massacre of millions. 

Massacre can also be used as a verb in both of these senses, as in The flock was massacred by the pack of wolves. 

Massacre is also used figuratively as a noun and a verb in the context of a decisive defeat, especially a one-sided sporting event, as in It was a massacre—we lost 12-0. 

Example: Every day, the news tells us of yet another massacre of innocent people by a person with a gun.

Where does massacre come from?

The first records of the word massacre come from around 1580. It comes from the Middle French verb massacrer. It may ultimately derive from the Vulgar Latin matteūca, meaning “mallet,” but its origin is uncertain.

When referring to a violent event, the word massacre is most often used in reference to war. In particular, it is used to refer to events in which soldiers are killing not just other soldiers but also civilians. In the United States, the word massacre has been used in reference to historic events that include violent killings of defenseless victims. For example, during the Boston Massacre of 1770, British soldiers fired on a crowd of colonists, killing five. Other events labeled massacres often involve the killing of many more people—thousands or even millions.

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What are some other forms related to massacre?

  • massacrer (noun)
  • unmassacred (adjective)

What are some synonyms for massacre?

What are some words that often get used in discussing massacre?


How is massacre used in real life?

Massacre is often used in the context of violent events, but it’s commonly used in a figurative way, especially in the context of sports.



How to use massacre in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for massacre

/ (ˈmæsəkə) /

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 forms of massacre

massacrer (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