Best Answer

The most common meaning nowadays of the Holocaust (with an article and a capital h) is the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Sometimes other victims who were murdered by the Nazis on the basis of their group identity are included, in particular, the gypsies (Roma). Around 1980 it replaced the term 'Final Solution [of the Jewish Question]', which was the Nazis' own term. Before the late 1970s the word was most commonly used (without a capital H) in the expression nuclear holocaust, which referred to the feared nuclear war between East and West.


The word Holocaust means great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life by fire.


It comes from the Greek word "holokaustos", which means "burned whole". It has been used in English for a long time in the sense of disaster involving many deaths (especially by fire). In its Middle English form, derived from Greek, it was used to mean a burnt offering. This later broadened to any major destruction due to fire, and broadened further to mean any mass destruction. When used in capitalized form, it is specifically referring to the mass destruction of Jewish and other people by the Nazis in World War Two.


It comes from a Greek word which means a sacrifice totally burned by fire. It has been widely used in English in the sense of 'great destruction (usually by fire)'. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s there was widespread fear of a nuclear holocaust.

Since the late 1970s the word holocaust has been widely used in historical writing in the sense of genocide. The Holocaust (without any further detail or qualification) refers to the genocide of about 6 million Jews by the Nazis. The Ottoman Turkish murder of about 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-1917 is often also referred to the Armenian Holocaust).

The term is often extended to the systematic, mass killing of all groups that the Nazis tried to exterminate on the basis of group membership - including Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, incuarbles, Soviet political commissars and some other groups. Recently, the word has been widely used in English for the Nazi genocide of the Jews and has largely replaced the expression Final Solution [of the Jewish question], which is a direct translation of Nazis' own term.

Some people are uneasy about the use of the word holocaust because it can have religious implications. In Hebrew the word Shoah, meaning great calamity, is widely used instead.

For practical and linguistic purposes the meaning of a word is its current use, not its etymology or history.

Parts of the answers to the Related Questions below and the links give definitions and some discussion.

User Avatar

Wiki User

โˆ™ 2011-12-27 00:06:30
This answer is:
User Avatar
Study guides

How did the Axis Forces win World War 1

What is the difference between a Concentration camp and an Extermation camp

What where the Nazi's

How many people other than Jews were killed in the Holocaust

See all cards
21 Reviews

Add your answer:

Earn +20 pts
Q: What is the definition of holocaust?
Write your answer...
Still have questions?
magnify glass
Related questions

Definition of Shoah?

another term for the Holocaust

What is the greek definition for the word Holocaust?

Sacrifice by fire

Why were Jews the majority killed during the Holocaust?

The Holocaust by definition was the Nazis' attempt to rid Europe of its Jews.

What is the difference between a Holocaust and the Holocaust?

This is the definition of holocaust in the dictionary:A great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fireThis is the definition of (the) Holocaust via the dictionary:The systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.In other words, holocaust could refer to any massacre or mass destruction, while Holocaust refers to the specific time period during World War II.

What conutry did the Holocaust begin?

Probably Lithuania, or Poland in conjunction with the invasion of the Soviet Union, but it really depends upon how ridgid your definition of the Holocaust is.

Where was the first camp built and who were the first inmates in the holocaust?

they used existing camps at the start it really depends on what you mean by inmates and how wide your definition of the Holocaust is.

How many Nazis were there during the Holocaust?

about 20,000,0000 __________ I wonder where that figure comes from and what definition of Nazi it is based on.

Why were the Holocaust victims involved?

This is a puzzling question. By definition a victim is 'involved' in a passive sense; they are picked on.

What was done to prevent another holocaust?

a new definition of crimes were created and new laws to treat them

What month and year did the Holocaust begin?

June 1941, but it depends upon your definition of the Holocaust, if you include the disabled, organised murdering of them started earlier, the actions against the homosexuals even earlier.

What is the definition of liberation during the holocaust?

taking jews from the cramped atticus and sticking them in a nice open concentration camp

How poor was government in Germany during holocaust?

it depends upon which definition of poor you mean; do you mean it as a measure of wealth or a measure of quality.

People also asked