ex·​tir·​pate ˈek-stər-ˌpāt How to pronounce extirpate (audio)
extirpated; extirpating

transitive verb

: to destroy completely : wipe out
: to pull up by the root
: to cut out by surgery
extirpation noun
extirpator noun

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Dig Out the History of Extirpate

You don’t have to dig too deep into the history of extirpate to discover that its roots are in, well, roots (and stumps). Extirpate grew out of a combining of the Latin prefix ex-, meaning “out,” and the Latin noun stirps, “trunk” or “root.” Among the earliest definitions of extirpate in English were “to uproot” and “to clear of stumps,” as well as the broader meaning of “to destroy completely” or “wipe out.” While today we often encounter extirpate in relation to plant and animal species that have been regrettably removed from a specific region or in total, intangibles such as evil or prejudice, for example, may also be extirpated. We hope this helps but if you find yourself stumped the next time you encounter extirpate, just remember we’re rooting for you.

Choose the Right Synonym for extirpate

exterminate, extirpate, eradicate, uproot mean to effect the destruction or abolition of something.

exterminate implies complete and immediate extinction by killing off all individuals.

exterminate cockroaches

extirpate implies extinction of a race, family, species, or sometimes an idea or doctrine by destruction or removal of its means of propagation.

many species have been extirpated from the area

eradicate implies the driving out or elimination of something that has established itself.

a campaign to eradicate illiteracy

uproot implies a forcible or violent removal and stresses displacement or dislodgment rather than immediate destruction.

the war uprooted thousands

Example Sentences

the triumph of modern medicine in extirpating certain diseases
Recent Examples on the Web Two cases this term will give Roberts another chance to extirpate considerations of race from U.S. constitutional law. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 20 Oct. 2022 Then, in the ISIS years, the US chose to ally with the Iraqi/Syrian Kurds to extirpate ISIS. Melik Kaylan, Forbes, 6 July 2022 Brave nonconformists across Cuban civil society, whom the regime is determined to extirpate, are merely collateral damage in a wider war against the values of the West. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, 12 June 2022 In Indonesia, the V.O.C. eventually followed up the massacre of a people with an effort to extirpate a botanical species. Olufemi O. Taiwo, The New Yorker, 25 Oct. 2021 The plain fact of the matter is that violent leftist revolutionaries of the kind that Salazar promised to extirpate in Portugal are nowhere to be seen on the American political landscape today. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 12 Aug. 2021 Now, by moving against the commission, Mr. Biden looks to extirpate classical roots. James Panero, WSJ, 26 May 2021 The state has a liberal reputation today, but in the 19th century its white settlers attempted to extirpate almost any nonwhite population and create a Jim Crow system that lasted well into the 20th century. Brian Smale, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Apr. 2021 But habitat loss and unregulated hunting combined to extirpate the big animals by 1900. Tom Carpenter, Outdoor Life, 2 Mar. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'extirpate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Latin exstirpatus, past participle of exstirpare, from ex- + stirp-, stirps trunk, root

First Known Use

1535, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of extirpate was in 1535


Dictionary Entries Near extirpate

Cite this Entry

“Extirpate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extirpate. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


ex·​tir·​pate ˈek-stər-ˌpāt How to pronounce extirpate (audio)
extirpated; extirpating
: to pull up by the roots
: to destroy completely
extirpation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on extirpate

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