Meaning of Annihilate

The Latin word nihil can be translated as “nothing”. The verb annihilate finds in this term its etymological root: it is the action that consists in reducing something to nothing.

To annihilate, therefore, is associated with demolishing, breaking, razing, devastating, or destroying. For example: “If I win the elections and become president, I promise to annihilate drug trafficking”, “The doctors will try to annihilate the cancer cells with a novel treatment”, “The musicians and producers met to develop a plan that would allow to annihilate the piracy that takes place through Internet ”.

The idea of annihilating can be used with reference to making disappear. In this context, it can be said that the Nazi regime tried to annihilate the Jewish community and other groups in German territory through a systematic massacre.

An attack in the framework of a war may seek to annihilate the enemy. Beyond the eventual respect for laws, regulations, or even ethical principles, the purpose of a military offensive usually seeks to defeat the opponent, either causing destruction or surrender.

As can be seen from the examples presented so far, the concept can have very different connotations, both positive and negative. While annihilating piracy is a constructive goal, killing all individuals of a certain religion or race cannot be accepted under any point of view.

Despite the versatility of this term, which allows you to refer to almost any procedure that aims to make something disappear, someone disappear or end a certain situation, it is not usually used in everyday speech, but is reserved for written language.

Returning to the case of piracy, one of the biggest problems in the entertainment industry, in an informal conversation it is common to say “end piracy”, instead of “annihilate”. On the other hand, this verb can appear in everyday speech if it refers to a massacre such as the one that took place during the rise of Nazism, perhaps to give the speech a more serious and respectful tone, and to emphasize suffering of the millions of victims and their families.

The annihilation, on the other hand, can be associated with an advanced deterioration: “The government is going to annihilate the productive apparatus of the nation if it insists with this type of policies”, “The tax increase managed to annihilate my finances”.

This meaning is usually used in contexts such as politics and the economy, since it refers to a series of negative consequences of certain government measures, or of any body with enough power to influence large groups of people and affect their wellness.

The notion of annihilating also appears in physics. When a material particle meets its corresponding antiparticle, the mass belonging to both becomes other particles or energy. The process is known as annihilate and the encounter, as particle-antiparticle annihilation.

For particle-antiparticle annihilation to take place, it is necessary that the two intersect in a suitable quantum state. In the field of quantum mechanics, the quantum state of entities or material objects is understood to be the set of forms or situations that can be physically distinguished through the measurement of their properties (which is called physical state) that are evident at a given moment.

The most common type of particle-antiparticle annihilation is the complete conversion into energy of the mass of a positron and an electron. Since the process of the annihilation of pairs arises from the electromagnetic interaction, the energy emission always occurs as gamma rays.