I'm writing a short story about an alien race that is determined to kill every last human on Earth, as in:

They want to ______ the human race. (make humans extinct)

Is there a word meaning "to make extinct"?

  • Can you update the post with an example sentence and what research you've done?
    – Hank
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 18:19
  • 5
    One possibility is extirpate: "search out and destroy completely" according to the Concise OED, tenth edition (2002). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fifth edition (2011) has this for extirpate: "1a. To destroy totally; kill off: an effort to reintroduce wildlife that had been extirpated from the region. b. To render absent or nonexistent." Another option is annihilate: "1a. To destroy completely ... b. To reduce to nonexistence," again from AHDEL.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 18:28
  • @SvenYargs +1 for annihilate. Extirpate works too, but in my experience many folks are unfamiliar with the word.
    – A C
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:06
  • It doesn't fit in the example sentence, so it isn't an answer (and you've already got some good ones), but don't forget about the word "genocide", which literally means to destroy a people, including a racial group. If you rewrote the sentence (or you talked about this several times, in different ways, as you typically would in a story), this word might come in handy, too. Very powerful and immediately understood meaning. Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 10:12

7 Answers 7


Exterminate is the word usually used in that type of story.



To get rid of by destroying; destroy totally; extirpate:


  • Exterminate! Beautiful! I never thought of that! +1.
    – rappatic
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 18:24
  • I would accept the answer now as well, but Stack Exchange says I have to wait 5 minutes.
    – rappatic
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 18:25
  • 2
    Be careful; it's used to the point of cliche (there's a particular alien race in English sci-fi who has an iconic cry of 'EX-TER-MI-NATE!') so don't make your characters ignorant of this cultural baggage without good reason.
    – Merus
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 1:35

I think of eradicate.


To remove or destroy utterly


  • I am with eradicate
    – PCARR
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:00

Perhaps extinguish will work for you:


  • To cause extinction of; to bring to an end to.

They ruthlessly extinguished all resistance.


  • This is the right answer, if you're looking for a verb that means to make extinct, which was the question.
    – Drew
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 18:46
  • 2
    I disagree that "extinguish" means "make extinct". It has its origin in the same root, of course, but that is not a reliable indicator of its meaning. To me, using "extinguish" to mean extirpation of a race would be a metaphor, treating the race as a process to be brought to an end. I see you quote that MWD says "to cause extinction of": I would say this is wrong, unless they're using "extinction" in a rather odd way. I observe that the OED's entry for "extinguish" does not contain the words "extinct" and "extinction" anywhere on the page., through eleven senses and subdivisions of senses.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 0:49

The aliens are determined to obliterate the human race.

Obliterate, from Dictionary.com:

to remove or destroy all traces of; do away with; destroy completely


It may sound a bit informal, but wipe out has the intended meaning of "make extinct".

From Merriam-Webster,

Definition of wipe out transitive verb :
to destroy completely :

Here are some examples from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (https://www.english-corpora.org/coca/) of wipe out being used to mean "make extinct".

"... into a single mosquito and release that mosquito into the wild. You may eventually wipe out the disease altogether. "

"... University. Data are lacking on whether " some crazy event can come along and wipe out a species that is doing just fine, " he says. " General ... "

"nihilists who believed in living for the moment because a nuclear catastrophe was apt to wipe out the human race before any of them reached 30."


The Oxford English Dictionary gives several definitions of "extinct" which are verbs, all of which are absolute synonyms of the various senses of the verb "extinguish".

I think it's completely within writer's or speaker's license to use it in the sense of "to make [a species] extinct".

Humanity extirpated the dodos, but, maybe aliens do want to extinct humanity.

  • But its entry for "extinguish" does not contain the word "extinct" even once. The verb "extinct" that you're talking about is marked as "obsolete", and the latest example given in any of its senses is 1626. This tells us nothing about the current meaning of "extinguish".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 0:52

How about extirpate? My memory may be wrong, but I think I found the term showing up in paleontological discussions of extinction events like asteroid impacts.

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