Please tell the single word for "to completely root out a disease".

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    A second option is expunge, but eradicate is probably the more commonly used term. Especially if referring to a population, and not just one person. asm.org/index.php/newsroom/item/…
    – Phil Sweet
    May 16, 2017 at 9:44
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    Eradicate. The only diseases to have been completely eradicated are smallpox in people and rinderpest in cattle. I hope to live to see the eradication of polio. May 16, 2017 at 11:09
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    @Princess Anne: Do you want to convey that the disease was completely removed from a person or is the intention to convey that the person certainly does not have a particular disease? May 16, 2017 at 11:15
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    @Chenmunka Root out means "to find and remove", which if one it's talking about a disease, would definitely connect to cure. Diagnose, on the other hand, simply means "identify the nature (of an illness or other problem) by examination of the symptoms". That's a totally different thing.
    – Werrf
    May 16, 2017 at 14:02
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    What do you mean by 'root out'? A single person who had the disease does not have it at all anymore? Or do you mean of a group of people, no one has the disease? Can you elaborate?
    – Mitch
    May 16, 2017 at 14:12

6 Answers 6



Etymology is from Eradicare. Eradicare, in turn, can be traced back to the Latin word radix, meaning "root" or "radish." Although eradicate began life as a word for literal uprooting, by the mid-17th century it had developed a metaphorical application to removing things.

Ref: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eradicate

Eradication is the reduction of an infectious disease's prevalence in the global host population to zero.

Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_infectious_disease

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    Eradication is the word used to describe the complete elimination of Smallpox in the World Health Organisation's statements on the disease, which I think is as close as you can get to an absolutely authoritative statement on the subject: who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2010/smallpox_20100517/en
    – Werrf
    May 16, 2017 at 13:08

You just touched on a common confusion, that between 'eliminate' and 'eradicate'. They are almost identical (besides nuanced collocations and frequencies).

In the context of disease, both are used for the state where no one has a particular it anymore. But the American CDC has stipulated definitions to contrast some important situations.

They define a set of words in ever declining prevalence:

  • control - prevalence has been restricted to an acceptable level
  • elimination of disease - the disease does not occur _in a given restricted geological area. For example, polio has been eliminated from Canada (no one currently has the disease polio there), but there are still instances of polio in India
  • elimination of infection - no one in a geographic area has shown positive tests for the organism (implying no disease and no likelihood of it starting back up again)
  • eradication - no one on Earth anywhere has evidence of the organism (may exist in a lab)
  • extinction - the infectious agent no longer exists on Earth at all. For example, smallpox has been eradicated (it is not out in the wild but there are some vials of it in highly secure labs).

Note that these are officially sanctioned technical uses. In informal conversation, either would be understood that 'no one gets that disease anymore and it can't come back'. But on the news or in a journal article or in science reporting eliminate refers to a particular location and eradicate refers to the whole world.



For example, the New York Times 08 April 1923 quotes ever-controversial Margaret Sanger:

Birth Control is not contraception indiscriminately and thoughtlessly practiced. It means the release and cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks — those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.


purge can also be used in this context, and is more visceral that either eradicate or extirpate.

  • 4
    In a medical context, purge means "vomit". May 16, 2017 at 13:52
  • Or in medicine, it can mean: to cause a copious evacuation of the bowels
    – JLG
    May 17, 2017 at 1:51

Although eradicate is clearly the right word -- even etymologically, as it derives from radix, root -- I prefer extirpate. Although its origin in stirps, "stem", perhaps casts it as less thorough than eradication, in the words of Bender Rodriguez, "the X makes it sound cool."

Edit: a commenter informs us that in this case, the etymology is accurate: at least in technical contexts, something eradicated is removed from existence, root and branch; something extirpated merely has suffered a local stem to be pruned.

But I stand by my choice, on euphonic grounds. The "x" and then the crisp "p" make it sound even more devastating than "exterminate".

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    -1. Extirpation is a synonym for local extinction, it does not mean the same thing as eradicate, no matter how cool it sounds.
    – ajd
    May 16, 2017 at 17:51
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    @AlexanderDunlap : "extirpate": "to destroy or remove (something) completely" (Merriam Webster); "eradicate or destroy completely." (Oxford Dictionaries). Just saying.
    – Dɑvïd
    May 16, 2017 at 18:41
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    Given the word's technical sense in ecology, I would think that using it in reference to disease in this way would be confusing at best. But fair enough, I'll remove the downvote.
    – ajd
    May 16, 2017 at 18:45
  • @AlexanderDunlap This 1901 dictionary books.google.com/… has a note saying that another work,"Crabb", makes a distinction between extirpate and eradicate; but the dictionary itself doesn't seem to adopt the distinction.
    – DavePhD
    May 16, 2017 at 18:57
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    @AlexanderDunlap From 1849 there is "When God determined to extirpate from the earth, the wicked and abominable generation who had polluted it, and whose crimes cried to heaven for vengeance, he resolved to save Noah and his family", so the completely eliminate meaning has been around for a long time books.google.com/…
    – DavePhD
    May 16, 2017 at 19:04

Depending on the disease's cause (A virus, bacterium or other living creature):

Exterminate might be a more fitting phrase.

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