- An example of Holocaust was the mass slaughter of European Jewish people in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
- An example of holocaust is a forest completely destroyed by fire.
- an offering the whole of which is burned; burnt offering
- a great or total destruction of life, specif. by fire: nuclear holocaust
Origin of holocaustMiddle English from Old French holocauste from Ecclesiastical Late Latin holocaustum, a whole burnt offering from Classical Greek holokauston (neut. of holokaustos), burnt whole from holos, whole (see holo-) + kaustos, burnt: see caustic
- Great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life, especially by fire.
- a. Holocaust The genocide of European Jews and other groups by the Nazis during World War II: “Israel emerged from the Holocaust and is defined in relation to that catastrophe” ( Emanuel Litvinoff )b. A massive slaughter: “an important document in the so-far sketchy annals of the Cambodian holocaust” ( Rod Nordland )
- A sacrificial offering that is consumed entirely by flames.
Origin of holocaustMiddle English burnt offering from Old French holocauste from Latin holocaustum from Greek holokauston from neuter of holokaustos burnt whole holo- holo- kaustos burnt ( from kaiein to burn )
- hol′o·caus′tal hol′o·caus′tic
Usage Note: Holocaust has a secure place in the language when it refers to the massive destruction of humans by other humans. In our 1987 survey 99 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the use of holocaust in the phrase nuclear holocaust. Sixty percent accepted the sentence As many as two million people may have died in the holocaust that followed the Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia. But because of its associations with genocide, people may object to extended applications of holocaust. The percentage of the Panel's acceptance drops sharply when people use the word to refer to death brought about by natural causes. In our 1999 survey 47 percent approved the sentence In East Africa five years of drought have brought about a holocaust in which millions have died. Just 16 percent approved The press gives little coverage to the holocaust of malaria that goes on, year after year, in tropical countries, where there is no mention of widespread mortality. The Panel has little enthusiasm for more figurative usages of holocaust. In 1999, only 7 percent accepted Numerous small investors lost their stakes in the holocaust that followed the precipitous drop in stocks. This suggests that these extended uses of the word may be viewed as overblown or in poor taste.Word History: Totality of destruction has been central to the meaning of holocaust since it first appeared in Middle English in the 1300s, used in reference to the biblical sacrifice in which a male animal was wholly burnt on the altar in worship of God. Holocaust comes from Greek holokauston, “that which is completely burnt,” which was a translation of Hebrew 'ōlâ (literally “that which goes up,” that is, in smoke). In this sense of “burnt sacrifice,” holocaust is still used in some versions of the Bible. In the 1600s, the meaning of holocaust broadened to “something totally consumed by fire,” and the word eventually was applied to fires of extreme destructiveness. In the 1900s, holocaust took on a variety of figurative meanings, summarizing the effects of war, rioting, storms, epidemic diseases, and even economic failures. Most of these usages arose after World War II, but it is unclear whether they permitted or resulted from the use of holocaust in reference to the mass murder of European Jews and others by the Nazis. This application of the word occurred as early as 1942, but the phrase the Holocaust did not become established until the late 1950s. Here it parallels and may have been influenced by another Hebrew word, šô'â, “catastrophe” (in English, Shoah ). In the Bible šô'â has a range of meanings including “personal ruin or devastation” and “a wasteland or desert.” Šô'â was first used to refer to the Nazi slaughter of Jews in 1939, but the phrase haš-šô'â, “the catastrophe,” became established only after World War II. Holocaust has also been used to translate hurbān, “destruction,” another Hebrew word used as a name for the genocide of Jews by the Nazis.
- A sacrifice that is completely burned to ashes. [from the 13th c]
- The annihilation or near-annihilation of a group of animals or people, whether by natural or deliberate agency. [from the 19th c]
- nuclear holocaust
- The state-sponsored mass murder of an ethnic group. In particular, the Holocaust (which see). [from the 20th c]
- 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.
From French holocauste, from Late Latin holocaustum, from the neuter form of Ancient Greek ὁλόκαυστος (holokaustos), from ὅλος (holos, “whole”) + καύστος (kaustos, “burnt”), from καίω (kaiō, “I burn”)
- (historical, narrowly) The systematic mass murder (genocide) of 6 million Jews perpetrated by Nazi Germany shortly before and during World War II.
- (historical, broadly) The systematic mass murder (democide) of 11 million people, namely 6 million Jews and 5 million others (including Romanis, Slavs, homosexuals, transgender people, non-whites and disabled people), perpetrated by Nazi Germany shortly before and during World War II.
- Whether the term "Holocaust" is a designation for the mass murder of 11 million people or only for the genocide of 6 million Jews is hotly contested.
- The genocide of the European Jews may be unambiguously referred to as the Shoah. The genocide of the Romani people has the specific designation Porajmos.
- For more information on the origin and early uses of the term holocaust, see the usage note about holocaust.