v. an·ni·hi·lat·ed, an·ni·hi·lat·ing, an·ni·hi·lates
a. To destroy completely: The naval force was annihilated during the attack.
b. To reduce to nonexistence: "He had not just to hide his hunger; so as not to go mad he had to annihilate it" (Philip Roth).
c. To defeat decisively: annihilated the league champions in the playoffs.
2. Physics To convert (a subatomic particle) to energy or high-energy particles by annihilation.
1. To be completely destructive.
2. Physics To participate in annihilation. Used of particles and antiparticles.
[Late Latin annihilāre, annihilāt- : Latin ad-, ad- + Latin nihil, nothing; see ne in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
an·ni′hi·la·bili·ty (-lə-bĭlĭ-tē) n.
an·nihi·la·ble (-lə-bəl) adj.
Synonyms: annihilate, exterminate, extinguish, obliterate
These verbs mean to destroy completely. Annihilate often implies that the destruction is so severe that nothing is left or salvagable: The cannon blasts annihilated the enemy's fortifications.
Exterminate emphasizes the elimination of that which is considered undesirable, especially by killing: "The land had been rendered treeless, as though a tree were a parasite that needed to be exterminated, its stump uprooted and purged" (Madhusree Mukerjee).
Extinguish is to put an end to something or to make something extinct: The teacher's criticism of my essay extinguished my enthusiasm for the project.
To obliterate is to leave no trace of that which is destroyed: The virus obliterates all data on the hard drive of any computer it infects.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.