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verb (used with object), ter·mi·nat·ed, ter·mi·nat·ing.
  1. to bring to an end; put an end to: to terminate a contract.
  2. to occur at or form the conclusion of: The countess's soliloquy terminates the play.
  3. to bound or limit spatially; form or be situated at the extremity of.
  4. to dismiss from a job; fire: to terminate employees during a recession.
verb (used without object), ter·mi·nat·ed, ter·mi·nat·ing.
  1. to end, conclude, or cease.
  2. (of a train, bus, or other public conveyance) to end a scheduled run at a certain place: This train terminates in New York.
  3. to come to an end (often followed by at, in, or with).
  4. to issue or result (usually followed by in).

Origin of terminate

1580–90; v. use of late Middle English terminate (adj.) limited < Latin terminātus, past participle of termināre. See term, -ate1
Related formster·mi·na·tive, adjectiveter·mi·na·tive·ly, adverbnon·ter·mi·na·tive, adjectivenon·ter·mi·na·tive·ly, adverbself-ter·mi·nat·ing, adjectiveself-ter·mi·na·tive, adjectiveun·ter·mi·nat·ed, adjectiveun·ter·mi·nat·ing, adjectiveun·ter·mi·na·tive, adjective
Can be confuseddownsize fire lay off rightsize terminate

Synonyms for terminate

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for terminate


  1. (when intr, often foll by in or with) to form, be, or put an end (to); concludeto terminate a pregnancy; their relationship terminated amicably
  2. (tr) to connect (suitable circuitry) to the end of an electrical transmission line to absorb the energy and avoid reflections
  3. (intr) maths (of a decimal expansion) to have only a finite number of digits
  4. (tr) slang to kill (someone)
Derived Formsterminative, adjectiveterminatory, adjective

Word Origin for terminate

C16: from Latin terminātus limited, from termināre to set boundaries, from terminus end
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 terminate

1610s, "to bring to an end," from Latin terminatus, past participle of terminare "to limit, end" (see terminus). Sense of "to come to an end" is recorded from 1640s; meaning "dismiss from a job" is recorded from 1973; that of "to assassinate" is from 1975. Related: Terminated; terminating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper