Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Extirpate

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is extirpate. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Extirpate means “to destroy completely,” and is often—though not exclusively—used in reference to plant and animal populations. It can also be used to mean “to pull up by the root” and “to cut out by surgery.”

// Despite the years-long effort to extirpate it from the landscape, purple loosestrife continues to thrive in the town’s wetlands.

// The district attorney is vowing to extirpate political corruption from City Hall if she is elected mayor.

EXTIRPATE in Context

“Peregrine falcons were once extirpated from Missouri due to pesticide damage to eggs and habitat loss. They have been on the state’s endangered species list but are being considered for removal, thanks to a cooperative program by Midwestern state and federal wildlife agencies. Re-introductions and nest boxes placed high on tall buildings in cities or power plant smokestacks have boosted their numbers.” — Brian Dulle,, 8 July 2021

Did You Know?

You don’t have to dig too deep into the history of extirpate to discover that its roots are in, well, roots (and stumps). Extirpate grew out of a combining of the Latin prefix ex-, meaning “out,” and the Latin noun stirps, “trunk” or “root.” Among the earliest definitions of extirpate in English were “to uproot” and “to clear of stumps,” as well as the broader meaning of “to destroy completely” or “wipe out.” While today we often encounter extirpate in relation to plant and animal species that have been regrettably removed from a specific region or in total, intangibles such as evil or prejudice, for example, may also be extirpated. We hope this helps but if you find yourself stumped the next time you encounter extirpate, just remember we’re rooting for you.

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