AskDefine | Define overkill

Dictionary Definition



1 the capability to obliterate a target with more weapons (especially nuclear weapons) than are required
2 any effort that seems to go farther than would be necessary to achieve its goal

User Contributed Dictionary



  • italbrac RP /ˈəʊvəˌkɪl/
  • italbrac US /ˈoʊvɝˌkɪl/


  1. A destructive capacity that exceeds that needed to destroy an enemy; especially with nuclear weapons.
  2. An unnecessary excess of whatever is needed to achieve a goal.
    24 hours of TV coverage of the US election verged on overkill.
    Should I give you yet more homework, or would that be overkill?


  1. To destroy something with more (nuclear) force than is required.

Extensive Definition

For other uses, see Overkill (disambiguation).
Overkill is a slang term for the use of excessive force or action that goes much further than is necessary to achieve its goal. For example, using a sledgehammer to crack a hazelnut, or shooting an ant with a rocket launcher would be overkill.

Nuclear weapons

Overkill is especially used to refer to a destructive nuclear capacity exceeding the amount needed to destroy an enemy.
The term was probably coined in the 1940s and was in common use during the Cold War era, referring to the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both nations possessed (and still possess) more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy one another many times over — nuclear overkill.


In criminal profiling, the term "overkill" refers to the wounds or mutilations inflicted by offenders (especially serial killers), which go beyond what is necessary to kill the victim. Such wounds are often inflicted post mortem. This often occurs when the attacker is completely out of control i.e. a blind rage or the proverbial red mist. Alternatively, the deed may be done calmly in order to satisfy the control/possession fantasies of the assailant. A classic example would be a frenzied stabbing where the victim has suffered a very high count of abdominal wounds.

In movies

In a critical sense, overkill might be considered a close relative of overacting and overdramatizing. For example, in most modern horror films, such as Friday the 13th, most of the killing is quickly clichéd, and is always overkill. For instance, when someone has fallen three stories onto the pavement, it would be overkill to hack them up with a chainsaw.
In Transformers, (post 1987) Overkill was one of Soundwave's later Cassettes.

In video games

Overkill is a common feature in many video games. In some games, such as Final Fantasy X, "overkill" is made part of the battle system; finishing off an enemy with a very high-damage attack may give bonus rewards after battle. Overkill is also one of the killing spree medals in Halo 2, and is awarded for killing 25 opponents in a row without dying. It is available in all multiplayer game types. Overkill is also a medal and Achievement in "Halo 3", and is obtained by killing 4 opponents within 4 seconds of each other; it is equivalent to the Killtacular award from the previous Halo games. It is available in all multiplayer game types, however the Achievement associated with it can only be obtained in a Ranked Free for All Playlist over Xbox Live.
In first-person shooters, overkilling a character will often result in gibbing that character.
Overkill is the name of Vice's HSDM in The King of Fighters 2002.

In Music

A Motörhead album [1979] and song from the album Overkill. Lyrics written by Lemmy (Ian Fraser Kilmister).
Overkill (band) is an American thrash metal band, formed in 1980 in New Jersey. The band has been active since 1984, releasing 15 studio albums, 2 EPs, 2 live albums and a "covers" album.
Queen (band) use the word "Overkill" in the famous song The Show Must Go On (Queen song).
Colin Hay has a song named "Overkill". This song is in the first episode of Scrubs (TV series) season 2.
overkill in German: Overkill

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

aggrandizement, aggravated assault, aggression, amphibious attack, amplification, armed assault, assailing, assailment, assault, attack, ballyhoo, banzai attack, big talk, blitz, blitzkrieg, blowing up, breakthrough, burlesque, caricature, charge, counterattack, counteroffensive, coup de main, crippling attack, dead set at, descent on, dilatation, dilation, diversion, diversionary attack, drive, enhancement, enlargement, exaggerating, exaggeration, excess, exorbitance, expansion, extravagance, extreme, flank attack, frontal attack, gas attack, grandiloquence, head-on attack, heightening, huckstering, hyperbole, hyperbolism, infiltration, inflation, inordinacy, lightning attack, lightning war, magnification, mass attack, megadeath, mugging, offense, offensive, onset, onslaught, overabundance, overemphasis, overestimation, overflow, overmuch, overplus, overstatement, panzer warfare, plethora, prodigality, profuseness, puffery, puffing up, push, run against, run at, rush, sally, sensationalism, shock tactics, sortie, stretching, strike, superfluity, superlative, surfeit, surplus, surplusage, tall talk, touting, travesty, unprovoked assault
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