terminate with extreme prejudice

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

1960s, US military intelligence and CIA, used publicly in 1969, in news coverage of Green Beret Case, further popularized in 1979 movie Apocalypse Now.[1] Play on the term “terminate with prejudice” when an employee’s employment is terminated,[2] meaning “will not rehire employee to same position in future” (i.e., prejudiced against rehiring), hence “terminate definitively, i.e., kill”.

Verb[edit]

terminate with extreme prejudice (third-person singular simple present terminates with extreme prejudice, present participle terminating with extreme prejudice, simple past and past participle terminated with extreme prejudice)

  1. (euphemistic, US) To murder; to assassinate.
    The government ordered the spies to be terminated with extreme prejudice: they did not want them to expose what they knew in a public trial.
    • 1969, Terence Smith, “Details of Green Beret Case Are Reported in Saigon”, The New York Times, August 14, 1969:
      ...suggested that he either be isolated or ‘terminated with extreme prejudice.’ This term is said to be an intelligence euphemism for execution.
    • 1979, Apocalypse Now
      Colonel Lucas: ... When you find the Colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate the Colonel's command.
      Willard: Terminate the Colonel?
      ...
      Civilian: Terminate with extreme prejudice.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Mark Forsyth (2012) The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language, →ISBN, Terminators and Prejudice
  2. ^ See termination of employment and without prejudice