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"Carnage" definition probably needs enhancement

Apart from on the television (news), I have never heard the the word "carnage" used in its literal sense, which is the "The killing of a large number of people".
Generally, it is used to denote a haphazard, or messy situation, often for comic effect. For example:
"It was carnage on the roads today."
"I got home from work and the house was utter carnage."
"It was carnage in the supermarket."
It may be that the usage, in this sense, is more prevalent in verbal communication.


  • @barriek, the OED added two senses in October 2009.

    fig. Widespread damage or ruin, devastation; chaos, disorder.


    In weakened sense: violence, vicious fighting, esp. in which one combatant wins easily.

    The first of these would seem to cover your examples. The quotations they give as examples are by no means all recent.

    1848 G. Spring Power of Pulpit vi. 80 Voltaire ‘made a desert, and called it peace’. It was a desert truly, such a moral wilderness, created in a Christian land, as the world had never seen before, nor since; it was carnage.
    1904 Commonw. Austral. Parl. Deb. 22 5730/2 Josiah Symon.—I was just going to ask why there should have been all this political carnage. Senator Givens.—Because the present Government wanted office at any cost.
    1973 Times 30 July 19/6 The resulting carnage is camouflaged by the Dow Jones industrial average.
    1995 Loaded July 124/4 I woke at 7pm staring at a ceiling fan in a strange room littered with my spring/summer collection. It was total carnage, we had missed a radio show interview and we were four hours late.
    2006 Vanity Fair (N.Y.) Dec. 174/1 So thick and tangy was the disenchantment with the Republican Congress..that some were predicting carnage akin to the 1994 midterms.

  • @DavidCrosbie, thanks for that. I did see that the definition was changed in 2009, but if I go to the top of this page, click DICTIONARY and then type "carnage", the only definition I get is "The killing of a large number of people."

  • SimoneSimone admin
    edited September 2018

    Hi there @barriek . It looks as though you were looking at our site, rather than the OED (the Oxford English Dictionary).
    Information about the difference between the two (and the process of adding new words!) can be found here.
    I hope this helps clarify the issue :)

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