1. The destructive use of military force beyond the amount needed to destroy an enemy.
2. The excessive use of force in killing an individual or organism.
3. Elimination or drastic reduction of an animal population by hunting or killing.
4. An excess of what is necessary or appropriate for a particular end: "government overkill in dealing with dissent" (Jesse Unruh).
v. (ō′vər-kĭl) o·ver·killed, o·ver·kill·ing, o·ver·kills
1. To destroy (an enemy or enemy target) with more force than necessary.
2. To use excessive force in killing (an individual, for example).
3. To kill too many of (a population of animals) for the population to maintain itself in substantial numbers.
4. To apply an excess of what is necessary or appropriate for (a particular end): overkill an advertising campaign.
To engage in overkill.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.