What is a synonym of "destroy," when the thing destroyed is a collection of documents. The destruction is intentional because the documents are not considered to have come from the authorized source of learning. In essence, the destruction is really to disable dissemination. Thanks.

  • Shred, perhaps? (For paper documents.) – Drew Oct 4 '15 at 17:22
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    It is a perfect choice, but (and I just realized I should have clarified more) the context is the medieval suppression of any texts that are not authorized by the catholic church. – asef Oct 4 '15 at 17:50
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    Interesting question, but is sounds more like 'cultural suppression/control' than just destruction of books. – user66974 Oct 4 '15 at 18:19
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    Suppress sounds like a good word actually. – barbecue Oct 4 '15 at 19:07
  • thesaurus.com/browse/destroy – Hot Licks Oct 4 '15 at 19:19

I'd suggest expunge.


  • to eliminate completely; wipe out; efface; destroy (Random House)

  • to erase or remove completely (something unwanted or unpleasant)(Oxford)

Church has expunged books and passages that failed to toe the doctrinal line.

Another mistake we humans have made through the ages, and occasionally continue to make to this day, is to burn or otherwise try to expunge books, essays, etc. because one finds the information in them somehow objectionable; usually, but not always, according to the local mores or beliefs of the time. When this has happened, valuable contributions to the Great Conversation have sometimes been lost forever.

  • +1 Expunge works well in the context. It suggests that the destruction was carried out intentionally in order to eliminate something unpleasant, vile, unauthorised or evil. You may want to replace your definition of expunge with one that captures this connotation. – DavidC Oct 4 '15 at 19:31

Perhaps burn. As 'book burning' is a common expression, and carries with it the idea of suppression of information.

  • Most book destructions were done by the fire. For example, The Nazi book burnings were a campaign conducted by the German Student Union to ceremonially burn books in Nazi Germany and Austria in the 1930s. The books targeted for burning were those viewed as being subversive or as representing ideologies opposed to Nazism. These books (a list st of 12 400 titles from 149 authors ) were written by Jewish, pacifist, classical liberal, anarchist, socialist, and communist authors, among others. – Graffito Oct 4 '15 at 18:46
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    Burning is one way to intentionally destroy condemned and otherwise unauthorised documents. However, it seems that @asef is looking for a term that does not require a particular method of destruction (burning, shredding, bleaching, and so forth). – DavidC Oct 4 '15 at 19:40

Although it doesn't explicitly suggest a complete physical destruction, you might consider 'efface':

FORMAL to ​remove something ​intentionally: The ​whole ​country had ​tried to efface the ​memory of the ​old ​dictatorship. (-- Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

As well as the sense of erasure, there's a medieval sense of absolution, and possibly of spiritual cleansing.

Origin: Late 15th century (in the sense 'pardon or be absolved from (an offence)'): from French effacer, from e- (from Latin ex- 'away from') + face 'face'. (-- Oxford Dictionaries Online)


The standard term for 'disable dissemination' of a book or theory or document is suppress.


lacerate, rend, rip, tear to pieces

  • These are good suggestions, but please include cited definitions for each word. – Dog Lover Oct 4 '15 at 21:14

I think the perspective matters for this answer. The people doing the destruction might call it something like a purge or cleansing, because they see it as the removal of something corrupt or malevolent.

Someone who values the library would see it very differently, probably calling it something like obliterating, eradicating, or expunging as Elian suggested.

  • To cleanse a set of documents seems to fall short of destroying them. It conveys the idea of rewriting them so as to be consistent with a doctrine. – DavidC Oct 4 '15 at 19:35
  • As I said, it's about perspective. If you believe the library is filled with heretical devil-stuff, then you are purging the evil works and cleansing the world by ridding it of the badness. – barbecue Oct 4 '15 at 19:41

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