Last night on two shows that I usually watch back-to-back on Tuesdays (NCIS and its spinoff set in New Orleans), the verb “end” was used in a way that seemed to mean “kill” (terminate/do away with/etc) a person ("When you catch him, end him”).

I realize that at least one synonym of “end” is used for “kill” (terminate) and that many slang words are used for “kill” (off/whack/waste, for example), but I had never heard “end” used as a [transitive] verb like this for killing a person until last night on those two different shows/occasions.

“Urban dictionary” doesn’t shed any light under either “end” or “kill,” and other generally accurate sources for informal usage don’t make the connection for me either:



Perhaps this usage is simply a logical extension of “end” (by way of its synonym “terminate”) and I could also see where it could possibly be a shortened version of

“[put an] END [to] HIM” or “END [his days],”

but, again, it is new to me so here's my question:

What is/are the origin/s of the use of “end” this way and is the fact that I heard it for the first time last night indicate that it is gaining in popularity (or merely that I haven’t been listening close enough)?

  • 1
    End: Old English endian "to end, finish, abolish, destroy; come to an end, die," from the source of end (n.). End Original sense of "outermost part" is obsolete except in phrase ends of the earth. Sense of "destruction, death" was in Old English. To end it all "commit suicide" is attested by 1911 .etymonline. Is this what you are looking for?
    – user66974
    May 6, 2015 at 18:56
  • Thanks. It's the use with a personal pronoun (or who's represented thereby) "end him/them now" that was new to me, but I'll digest what you're saying to see if you're saying that if it's ok with "end IT all now" (which of course it is) then it's ok with "end THEM all now." @Josh61
    – Papa Poule
    May 6, 2015 at 19:25

3 Answers 3


is the fact that I heard it for the first time last night indicate that it is gaining in popularity (or merely that I haven’t been listening close enough)?

I would suggest the latter; if you haven't been inattentive, then you've merely been observing the wrong examples of filmed entertainment. This use has been moderately common in pop culture throughout the 00s/teens, most often in the phrase "I will end you," used as a threat. With some casual research, the earliest example of that particular construction which I've been able to find is the 1997 film Good Will Hunting. That film's popularity and quotability may have spread the phrase.


In the science fiction series 'Firefly' the protagonist Malcom Reynolds threatens a bad guy saying that if he comes at them again "I will end you". The fans of the show have been rather dedicated and have spread the phrase across sci fi fandom and then media fandom in general...

  • Hello, Rebekah. The 1997 'Good Will Hunting' example must be nearer to (if not actually) the origin of the usage. Feb 4, 2021 at 12:19

OED notes that the transitive use with the sense of "to make an end of a person; to kill" is obsolete. Or it was in 1891, anyway. I find that surprising, but the latest example they have (in 1891) was from 1639.

Shakespeare used it in Henry IV Part 1 (Act V Scene 3) "This sword hath ended him".

The earliest citation comes from around 1340: "Ffra morne til eueyn þou sall end me," cited as "Richard Rolle (a1310–1349) Cant. in Psalter 497".

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