Word of the Month: Extirpate

David Zapatka

While traveling this summer on the Goldwing, I chose to visit the granddaddy of all outdoor sporting goods stores, Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri. If you’ve never been there, it’s spectacular and certainly worth a visit. More than 4,000,000 tourists visit this store every year, more than double the tourists to the famous St. Louis Arch making Bass Pro Shops the #1 Missouri tourist attraction. In one of their museums, information on the North American cougar was listed. It said, “Cougars were extirpated from most of the eastern United States by the early 1900’s. However, their populations are currently expanding eastward.” This comment was made relative to the successful efforts of hunting conservationists.

Extirpate – verb ex·​tir·​pate | \ ˈek-stər-ˌpāt \ 1a: to destroy completely, wipe out. b: to pull up by the root. 2: to cut out by surgery.

History and etymology – Latin exstirpatus, past participle of exstirpare, from ex- + stirp-, stirps trunk, root.

First known use of the word extirpate – 1535.

Extricate and extirpate are two words that are sometimes confused. Extricate means to remove someone or something from a hard position, to free someone from a difficulty. Extricate is a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are extricates, extricated, extricating. The word extricate is derived from the Latin word extricatus, which means to disentangle.

Extirpate means to completely destroy, to absolutely eradicate. Extirpate is also a transitive verb, related words are extirpates, extirpated, extirpating. The word extirpate is derived from the Latin word extirpatus, meaning to pull up from the roots.

Extirpation, also called local extinction, is the disappearance of a species only from a given area. Both extinction and extirpation can occur naturally; most species that have ever existed are now extinct and all species that exist today will someday be extinctEncyclopedia.com

Extirpate used in a sentence in the news and literature:

Wolves were extirpated from the state in the 1940s mainly because of their depredation of livestock — USA Today, “Flying goats, chile duel, ’99 Women’s World Cup statue: News from around our 50 states,” 12 July 2019

But there’s one pesky thing that will be tough to extirpate: the idea of the individual as distinct from the tribe, and the idea that governments derive their consent from the governed, that the rights of the individual transcend time and place — James Lileks, National Review, “Girth Dearth,” 11 July 2019

The socialist-inspired anti-industry climate and culture has not yet been properly extirpated from this country — The Hansard Archive

Thus, hurricanes, which generate large, widespread openings in the forest canopy, should decrease population densities of terrestrial gastropods, perhaps even extirpating less abundant species from some localities — The Cambridge English Corpus

What extirpations have you seen in your life? Please submit your experiences, any thoughts on this month’s column or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to
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