Overkill (term)

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Overkill is the use of excessive force or action that goes further than is necessary to achieve its goal. It implies that, while the goal was accomplished, there was collateral damage as a result. It may be a literal term referring to physical damage, though it is also used in colloquial conversation as a metaphor.

A nuclear land mine is an example of overkill.

Nuclear weapons[edit]

Overkill is especially used to refer to a destructive nuclear capacity exceeding the amount needed to destroy an enemy.[1]

The term is attested from 1946[2] 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 (US and Russia still possess) more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy one another many times over — nuclear overkill. The term for this was "pounding the rubble" or, as military officers sometimes joked, "pounding the ruble".

In media[edit]

See also: Overkill


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.

Video games[edit]

Overkill is a common feature in many video games, typically representing that the damage a single attack inflicted on an enemy or player character was far exceeding the character's remaining health. In many first-person shooters, starting with Doom, overkilling a character will result in gibbing.

  • In the Disgaea series, some attacks involve completely annihilating planets and even entire galaxies.
  • In Final Fantasy X, landing an attack that does significantly more damage than the enemy's remaining HP will trigger an "OVER KILL" sign over the defeated enemy, which usually leads to the player receiving bonus rewards after battle.
  • In several Halo games, a medal named "Overkill" is awarded for killing four enemies in a short period of time.
  • In several Call of Duty games, "Overkill" is the name of a perk/wildcard which allows the player to carry two primary weapons at the same time.
  • In Minecraft, an achievement named "Overkill" is earned by dealing 8 hearts of damage in a single strike.
  • In Borderlands 2, one of the playable character Gunzerker's skills is called "No Kill Like Overkill" which allows him to use the damage left over from any overkill in his next shot.
  • In Payday 2, many items in-game are called "Overkill" most likely as a reference to its developer, Overkill Software. Some of these items include a barrel extension that increases damage output, and a skill that increases shotgun and saw damage by 75% for a while after a kill.


Motörhead has a song called "Overkill", from an eponymous album. A 1980s thrash metal band from New Jersey and a speed metal band from Los Angeles also took that name, in a period when names referring to war and murder were popular, e.g. Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth (from a military term for a million deaths).


  • In AutoCAD the command OVERKILL removes duplicate objects.


  1. ^ <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/overkill>.
  2. ^ "overkill." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 31 Mar. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/overkill>.