from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A mechanism for causing a device to destroy itself.
  • intransitive v. To destroy oneself or itself: "died at 28, wasted from years of self-destructing on drugs” ( Jack Kroll).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To destroy oneself.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. do away with oneself or itself


Back-formation from self-destruction.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
self- +‎ destruct (Wiktionary)



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  • I came here to comment on how "destruct" isn't a verb, only to find that my fellow Wordniks already cleared up this issue, five years ago. I love this site and the people on it!

    October 30, 2014

  • I have one too--added.

    December 1, 2009

  • Added to my list - thanks, rolig!

    November 28, 2009

  • Actually, the O.E.D. lists a verb 'to destruct' (defined as equivalent to destroy) with destructed attested in an example from before 1638, but it does have the note: 'Quot. a1638 is an isolated use. The recent (chiefly U.S.) use in Rocketry is prob. in part a back-formation on DESTRUCTION.' So probably and in part you're right.

    November 28, 2009

  • I just realized this is a back-formation from self-destruction. After all, there is no word "to destruct". Doesn't someone have a list of back-formations where this belongs?

    November 28, 2009