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Attested since the 16th century; from Middle French demoliss-, the stem of some conjugated forms of the verb demolir (to destroy”, “to tear down), from Latin dēmōlior (I tear down). Displaced native Old English tōweorpan (literally to throw apart).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /dəˈmɒl.ɪʃ/
  • (file)


demolish (third-person singular simple present demolishes, present participle demolishing, simple past and past participle demolished) (transitive)

  1. (literally) To destroy (buildings, etc.), especially in a planned or intentional fashion.
    They demolished the old mill and put up four townhouses.
    • 1961 January, “Talking of Trains: The Severn Bridge disaster”, in Trains Illustrated, page 5:
      The force of the explosion demolished one pair of piers and two spans of the bridge crashed down into the river on top of the barges.
    • 2020 May 6, Graeme Pickering, “Borders Railway: time for the next step”, in Rail, page 53:
      At Hawick, nothing remains of the station, and the viaduct over the River Teviot is one of a number of bridges that were demolished or removed following closure.
  2. (figuratively) To defeat, refute, discredit, or consume utterly (as a theory, belief or opponent).
    • 1992, Robert Rankin, The Antipope, page 68:
      The Captain folded his brow into a look of intense perplexity. 'You seem exceedingly spry for a man who demolished an entire bottle of brandy and better part of an ounce of shag in a single evening.'
      'And very nice too,' said the tramp. 'Now as to breakfast?'
    • 2011 October 2, Kevin Core, “Fulham 6 - 0 QPR”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Andrew Johnson scored a hat-trick as Fulham demolished London rivals Queens Park Rangers to win their Premier League fixture of the season.
    • 2022 November 30, Paul Bigland, “Destination Oban: a Sunday in Scotland”, in RAIL, number 971, page 74:
      The table opposite me is occupied by a young couple with a table full of alcohol and snacks. In a role reversal, he is drinking Smirnoff Ice while she steadily demolishes a six-pack of lager!


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