Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I need a word to fill the blank in this sentence: "The hurricane was one of the most blank-deadly events in history."

The human death count was recorded, but not the death count not for other species, so it was definitely a deadly event for humans, but the toll taken on other species was not known.

At the moment I'm using human for this purpose, but human-deadly doesn't sound quite right, nor as good as possible.

I understand that without the word, the statement would generally be taken as referring to humans but I would prefer to specify.

share|improve this question
3  
Pragmatics is, as usual, involved. Even with no further textual context, The hurricane was one of the most deadly events in history would be taken as referring to human deaths. If you need to be specific here, human death count is quite acceptable - it sounds odd because you'd almost always just say death count. Lengthier constructions ('the number of animals killed ...'; 'the death toll amongst primates ...') would be used where required for other populations. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 19 '13 at 7:22
    
The hurricane was one of the deadliest events in history- and not just for humans. –  Jim Apr 19 '13 at 7:55
add comment

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Deadly is generally taken to refer to humans, and so does not need a qualifier. In fact, I can't actually think of a word that would be comfortably and effectively used in the way you want to use it.

Also, we usually say "deadliest" instead of "most deadly."

It is understood that we are talking about people in such cases, unless we specify something else. Therefore, if you want to indicate it killed a lot of alligators, you would say something like, "For the alligator population, it was one of the deadliest events...."

If you still feel the need to emphasize that you're talking about human beings, I would suggest you say "in human history" rather than simply "in history."

Addendum to address the new final sentence of your edited question:

I really can't come up with a word that works for your purpose. If you want to specify that you are just talking about how many people died, I suggest you restructure the sentence. Here are a few possibilities:

The hurricane killed more people than most other events in recorded history.

The hurricane was one of the deadliest human tragedies in history.

The hurricane was an event more deadly to humans than almost any other natural disaster in the history of the planet.

And there are many more.

share|improve this answer
    
Humans record history of other species' too, so it still doesn't sound right. –  5ives Apr 19 '13 at 8:03
1  
It sounds right to John. It sounds right to me. Wikipedia doesn't feel the need to qualify either 'loss of life' or 'death toll' ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_natural_disasters_by_death_toll ). –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 19 '13 at 8:41
    
Umm, well, no, not exactly. History is human. When did you ever read a "history" of any other race? And if this doesn't sound right to you, I have to tell you, get used to the way it sounds, because it is the standard usage. Notice that Edwin's comment agrees with my answer in almost every detail. And Jim's comment subsequent to Edwin's also reflects exactly the same thing. (He writes, "one of the deadliest events in history," which you can see is taken as necessarily human, because then he shows how it is necessary to add a clause about non-humans if you want to talk about them. –  John M. Landsberg Apr 19 '13 at 8:44
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.