[ oh-ver-kil ]
/ ˈoʊ vərˌkɪl /


the capacity of a nation to destroy, by nuclear weapons, more of an enemy than would be necessary for a military victory.
an instance of such destruction.
an excess of what is required or suitable, as because of zeal or misjudgment.

Origin of overkill

An Americanism dating back to 1945–50; over- + kill1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for overkill

British Dictionary definitions for overkill


/ (ˈəʊvəˌkɪl) /


the capability to deploy more weapons, esp nuclear weapons, than is necessary to ensure military advantage
any capacity or treatment that is greater than that required or appropriate
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 overkill



1958, from over- + kill (v.). Originally in reference to nuclear arsenals; the general sense is from 1965. The verb is attested from 1946.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper