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See also: Holocaust



From Middle English holocaust, from Anglo-Norman holocauste, from Late Latin holocaustum, from the neuter form of Ancient Greek ὁλόκαυστος (holókaustos), from ὅλος (hólos, whole) + καυστός (kaustós, burnt), from καίω (kaíō, I burn). Used to refer to mass killings since at least 1925.[1]



holocaust (plural holocausts)

  1. A sacrifice that is completely burned to ashes. [from the 13th c]
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Mark XII:
      And to love a mans nehbour as hymsilfe, ys a greater thynge then all holocaustes and sacrifises.
    • 1646, Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, III.3:
      in the holocaust or burnt-offering of Moses, the gall was cast away: for, as Ben Maimon instructeth, the inwards, whereto the gall adhereth, were taken out with the crop (according unto the law,) which the priest did not burn, but cast unto the east [...].
  2. Extensive destruction of a group (usually of people or animals), whether by deliberate agency or by natural agency (especially fire). [from the 19th c]
    • 1895 September 10, "ANOTHER ARMENIAN HOLOCAUST; Five Villages Burned, Five Thousand Persons Made Homeless, and Anti-Christians Organized.", in The New York Times
    • 1925, Melville Chater, History's Greatest Trek, in The National Geographic Magazine[1]
      But the initial episodes of the Exchange drama were enacted to the accompaniment of the boom of cannon and the rattle of machine guns and with the settings painted by the flames of the Smyrna holocaust [...]
    • 1938, The Palestine Post (Sunday February 6 1938), volume XIV, No. 3567, page 4, column 4 (beneath "Help for Franco?"):
      [] the entire Press, more particularly the French press, is worried lest there be some connection between the bloodless holocaust of German Generals and Ambassadors and the persistent reports that Mussolini is about to intervene in Spain on the grand scale.
    • 1954, Talbot Jennings, Jan Lustig, Noel Langley, Knights of the Round Table (film)
      None will emerge the victor from this holocaust.
    • 1966, James Workman, The Mad Emperor, Melbourne, Sydney: Scripts, page 151:
      The hut was a holocaust; men fighting their way out howled and coughed on smoke.
    a nuclear holocaust
  3. In particular, a state-sponsored mass murder of an ethnic group, especially the Holocaust (which see). [from the 20th c]

Usage notes[edit]

  • Use of the word holocaust to depict Jewish suffering under the Nazis dates back to 1942, according to the OED. By the 1970s, The Holocaust was often synonymous with the Jewish exterminations. This use of the term as a synonym for the Jewish exterminations has been criticised because it appears to imply that there was a voluntary religious purpose behind the Nazi actions, which was not the case from either the Nazis' perspective or the victims'. Hence, some people prefer the term Shoah, which means destruction.
  • The word continues to be used in its other senses. For example, part of the action of a BBC radio drama by James Follett in 1981 takes place in “Holocaust City”, which by inference was named because the inhabitants were the only survivors of a global nuclear war.
  • For more information on the use of the term Holocaust, see the entry Holocaust.


Related terms[edit]



holocaust (third-person singular simple present holocausts, present participle holocausting, simple past and past participle holocausted)

  1. (rare) To sacrifice and burn (an animal) completely.
    • 1986, Sylvia Brinton Perera, The Scapegoat Complex: Toward a Mythology of Shadow and Guilt:
      The Holocausted Goat
      Besides the condemning accuser, there is also the "holocausted goat," originally symbolizing libido sacrificed to the offended Yahweh.
    • 1987, Quadrant:
      The first was the holocausted goat, not worthy to live, who manifests in the modern complex as the helpless victim of pre-egoic consciousness. The second is the exiled wandering goat who carries all the denied instincts — sexuality, ...
    • 1997, Kathie Carlson, Life's Daughter/death's Bride: Inner Transformations Through the Goddess Demeter/Persephone, Shambhala Publications:
      Is it any wonder that the ruler of such a place would be worshipped with aversion rather than invocation? Or that the offering to underworld deities was traditionally an offering that was holocausted, completely burnt and given over [] ?
  2. (rare) To destroy completely, especially by fire.
    • 1850, George Townsend, Journal of a tour in Italy, in 1850, with an account of an interview with the pope, page 119:
      The meek and candid persecutor, Cardinal Pole, who killed and took possession when Cranmer was holocausted, built the chapel, and became the voucher for the truth of the absurd legend. We visited the reputed grotto of the nymph Egeria.
    • 1888, Southern California Practitioner, page 79:
      Sulla once said, before Caesar had made much of a showing, that some day this young man would be the ruin of the aristocracy, and twenty years afterward, when Caesar sacked, assassinated and holocausted a whole theological seminary []
  3. (rare, possibly nonstandard) To subject to a holocaust (mass annihilation); to destroy en masse. (Compare genocide (verb).)

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Colin Martin Tatz, With Intent to Destroy: Reflecting on Genocide, page 18: Possibly the first Western scholar to use 'holocaust' in a genocidal context—to refer to the Turkish genocides of Hellenic, Armenian and Assyrian populations in Asia Minor between 1914 and 1924—was Melville Chater in his 1925 article 'History's greatest trek'. He was referring specifically to the burning of Smyrna [...] in September 1922.


Alternative forms[edit]


holocaust m

  1. holocaust (the state-sponsored mass murder of an ethnic group)



From Middle Dutch holocaust, from Latin holocaustum, from the neuter of Ancient Greek ὁλόκαυστος (holókaustos). The shift to masculine was influenced by Middle French holocauste. The meaning “genocide” derives from English holocaust.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɦɔ.loːˌkɑu̯st/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: ho‧lo‧caust


holocaust m (plural holocausten)

  1. holocaust, genocide
  2. (dated) holocaust (complete burnt offering)

Related terms[edit]