Killing ends when the thing you are killing (your sworn enemy, all hope, a pesky mosquito) is dead. Annihilate goes farther—when you annihilate something, you wipe all trace of it from the earth.

You kill a person, but you annihilate a tribe, a town, or even a species. It's nice to think that the human race made it all the way up until the 16th century before annihilate came to mean what it does now. Might this have something to do with the increasing use of gunpowder around this time?

Definitions of annihilate
  1. verb
    kill in large numbers
    synonyms: carry off, decimate, eliminate, eradicate, extinguish, wipe out
    kill one in every ten, as of mutineers in Roman armies
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    type of:
    cause to die; put to death, usually intentionally or knowingly
  2. verb
    do away with completely, without leaving a trace
    synonyms: obliterate
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    type of:
    do away with, eliminate, extinguish, get rid of
    terminate, end, or take out
  3. verb
    beat thoroughly and conclusively in a competition or fight
    synonyms: bat, clobber, cream, drub, lick, thrash
    flail, lam, thrash, thresh
    give a thrashing to; beat hard
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    type of:
    beat, beat out, crush, shell, trounce, vanquish
    come out better in a competition, race, or conflict
  4. verb
    declare invalid
    synonyms: annul, avoid, invalidate, nullify, quash, void
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    formalise, formalize, validate
    declare or make legally valid
    invalidate by judicial action
    printing: cancel, as of a correction or deletion
    type of:
    cancel, strike down
    declare null and void; make ineffective
Word Family

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