Dr Johnson had a hand in changing the use of this word, which its Latin origin shows to mean ‘characterized by great slaughter’. He mistakenly understood the prefix inter- to denote reciprocal or mutual action and defined internecine as ‘endeavouring mutual destruction’, thereby setting the word on the way to its primary current meaning. Despite the objections of the more fervent purists, who invoke the word's pre-Johnsonian credentials, it is used in its later meaning with reference to physical war and killing and has developed an extended or trivialized meaning applied to the battles of the boardroom and other areas of business and public life:

• The electorate…finally gagged on their traditional roughage of internecine strife —Times, 1974

• He was on edge, engaged in flaming rows, head-blasting music mayhem and internecine squabbling with his garage band compadres Crazy Horse —New Musical Express, 1991

• That gives you some idea of the internal rivalry and internecine squabbling that went on —BBC History, 2004.

Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Internecine — In ter*ne cine, a. [L. internecinus deadly, murderous, fr. internecare to kill, to slaughter; inter between + necare to kill; akin to Gr. ? dead. See {Necromancy}.] 1. Involving, or accompanied by, mutual slaughter; mutually destructive. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • internecine — ► ADJECTIVE 1) destructive to both sides in a conflict. 2) relating to conflict within a group: internecine rivalries. ORIGIN Latin internecinus, from inter among + necare to kill …   English terms dictionary

  • internecine — index deadly, destructive, detrimental, harmful, lethal, noxious Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • internecine — (adj.) 1660s, deadly, destructive, from L. internecinus very deadly, murderous, destructive, from internecare kill or destroy, from inter (see INTER (Cf. inter )) + necare kill (see NOXIOUS (Cf. noxious)). Considered in the OED as misinterpreted… …   Etymology dictionary

  • internecine — [in΄tər nē′sin, in΄tər nē′sēn΄; ] chiefly Brit [, in΄tərnē′sīn΄] adj. [L internecinus < internecare, to kill, destroy < inter , between + necare, to kill: see NECRO ] 1. Now Rare full of slaughter or destruction 2. deadly or harmful to both …   English World dictionary

  • internecine — in·ter·nec·ine (ĭn′tər nĕs’ēn′, ĭn, nē’sīn′) adj. 1) Of or relating to struggle within a nation, organization, or group. 2) Mutually destructive; ruinous or fatal to both sides. 3) Characterized by bloodshed or carnage. ╂ [Latin internecīnus,… …   Word Histories

  • internecine — adjective /ˌɪntəˈniːsaɪn,ˌɪntɚˈnɛsin/ a) Mutually destructive; most often applied to warfare. Internecine strife in Gaza claimed its most senior victim yesterday when militants assassinated one of the most hated security chiefs there. b)… …   Wiktionary

  • internecine — in|ter|ne|cine [ˌıntəˈni:saın US ˌıntərˈni:sən, ˈnesi:n] adj [only before noun] formal [Date: 1600 1700; : Latin; Origin: internecinus, from internecare to destroy completely , from necare to kill ] internecine fighting or struggles happen… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • internecine — [17] Etymologically, internecine denotes ‘attended by great slaughter’. Its modern connotations of ‘conflict within a group’, which can be traced back to the 18th century (Dr Johnson in his Dictionary 1755 defines it as ‘endeavouring mutual… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • internecine — [[t]ɪ̱ntə(r)ni͟ːsaɪn, AM siːn[/t]] ADJ: ADJ n An internecine conflict, war, or quarrel is one which takes place between opposing groups within a country or organization. [FORMAL] The whole episode has drawn attention again to internecine strife… …   English dictionary

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