kill with kindness

verb (used with object)

  1. to deprive of life in any manner; cause the death of; slay.
  2. to destroy; do away with; extinguish: His response killed our hopes.
  3. to destroy or neutralize the active qualities of: to kill an odor.
  4. to spoil the effect of: His extra brushwork killed the painting.
  5. to cause (time) to be consumed with seeming rapidity or with a minimum of boredom, especially by engaging in some easy activity or amusement of passing interest: I had to kill three hours before plane time.
  6. to spend (time) unprofitably: He killed ten good years on that job.
  7. Informal. to overcome completely or with irresistible effect: That comedian kills me.
  8. to muffle or deaden: This carpet kills the sound of footsteps.
  9. Informal. to cause distress or discomfort to: These new shoes are killing me.
  10. Informal. to tire completely; exhaust: The long hike killed us.
  11. Informal. to consume completely: They killed a bottle of bourbon between them.
  12. to cancel publication of (a word, paragraph, item, etc.), especially after it has been set in type.
  13. to defeat or veto (a legislative bill, etc.).
  14. Electricity. to render (a circuit) dead.
  15. to stop the operation of (machinery, engines, etc.): He killed the motor and the car stopped.
  16. Tennis. to hit (a ball) with such force that its return is impossible.
  17. Metallurgy.
    1. to deoxidize (steel) before teeming into an ingot mold.
    2. to eliminate springiness from (wire or the like).
    3. to cold-roll (sheet metal) after final heat treatment in order to eliminate distortion.
  18. Ice Hockey. to prevent the opposing team from scoring in the course of (a penalty being served by a teammate or teammates).

verb (used without object)

  1. to inflict or cause death.
  2. to commit murder.
  3. to be killed.
  4. to overcome completely; produce an irresistible effect: dressed to kill.
  5. Slang. to feel a smarting pain, as from a minor accident; sting: I stubbed my little toe and that really kills.


  1. the act of killing, especially game: The hounds moved in for the kill.
  2. an animal or animals killed.
  3. a number or quantity killed.
  4. an act or instance of hitting or destroying a target, especially an enemy aircraft.
  5. the target so hit or, especially, destroyed.
  6. Sports. kill shot.

Verb Phrases

  1. kill off,
    1. to destroy completely; kill, especially successively or indiscriminately: The invaders killed off all the inhabitants of the town.
    2. extinguish; eliminate: The bus ride every day kills off all of my energy.

  1. kill with kindness, to overdo in one’s efforts to be kind: The aunts would kill their nephews and nieces with kindness.

verb (mainly tr)

  1. (also intr; when tr, sometimes foll by off) to cause the death of (a person or animal)
  2. to put an end to; destroyto kill someone’s interest
  3. to make (time) pass quickly, esp while waiting for something
  4. to deaden (sound)
  5. informal to tire out; exhaustthe effort killed him
  6. informal to cause to suffer pain or discomfortmy shoes are killing me
  7. informal to cancel, cut, or deleteto kill three lines of text
  8. informal to quash, defeat, or vetothe bill was killed in the House of Lords
  9. informal to switch off; stopto kill a motor
  10. (also intr) informal to overcome with attraction, laughter, surprise, etcshe was dressed to kill; his gags kill me
  11. slang to consume (alcoholic drink) entirelyhe killed three bottles of rum
  12. sport to hit (a ball) so hard or so accurately that the opponent cannot return it
  13. soccer to bring (a moving ball) under control; trap
  14. kill oneself informal to overexert oneselfdon’t kill yourself
  15. kill two birds with one stone to achieve two results with one action


  1. the act of causing death, esp at the end of a hunt, bullfight, etc
  2. the animal or animals killed during a hunt
  3. NZ the seasonal tally of stock slaughtered at a freezing works
  4. the destruction of a battleship, tank, etc
  5. in at the kill present at the end or climax of some undertaking


  1. US a channel, stream, or river (chiefly as part of place names)

c.1200, “to strike, hit, beat, knock;” c.1300, “to deprive of life,” perhaps from an unrecorded variant of Old English cwellan “to kill” (see quell), but the earliest sense suggests otherwise. Sense in to kill time is from 1728. Related: Killed; killing. Kill-devil, colloquial for “rum,” especially if new or of bad quality, is from 1630s.


“stream,” 1630s, American English, from Dutch kil, from Middle Dutch kille “riverbed,” especially in place names (e.g. Schuylkill). A common Germanic word, the Old Norse form, kill, meant “bay, gulf” and gave its name to Kiel Fjord on the German Baltic coast and thence to Kiel, the port city founded there in 1240.


early 13c., “a stroke, a blow,” from kill (v.). Meaning “act of killing” is from 1814; that of “a killed animal” is from 1878. Lawn tennis serve sense is from 1903. The kill “the knockout” is boxing jargon, 1950.

Overwhelm or harm someone with mistaken or excessive benevolence. For example, Aunt Mary constantly sends Jane chocolates and cake and other goodies, even though she’s been told Jane’s on a diet—nothing like killing with kindness. This expression originated as kill with kindness as fond apes do their young (presumably crushing them to death in a hug) and was a proverb by the mid-1500s.

In addition to the idioms beginning with kill

  • kill off
  • kill or cure
  • kill the fatted calf
  • kill the goose that lays the golden eggs
  • kill time
  • kill two birds with one stone
  • kill with kindness

also see:

  • curiosity killed the cat
  • dressed to kill
  • fit to kill
  • in at the death (kill)
  • make a killing
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