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See also: Holocaust



From French 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).



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. The annihilation or near-annihilation of a group of animals or people, whether by natural or deliberate agency. [from the 20th c]
    • Palestine Post 6 February 1938 p. 4, col. 4.
      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
    • 1954 January 15, Mel Ferrer as King Arthur Pendragon in Knights of the Round Table:
      None will emerge the victor from this holocaust.
    a nuclear holocaust
  3. The state-sponsored mass murder of an ethnic group. In particular, the Holocaust (which see). [from the 20th c]
  4. An inferno or fire disaster.

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.


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Alternative forms[edit]


holocaust m

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