Origin of the word holocaust

It is Holocaust Memorial Day – 27th January. 70 years since the Soviet liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The word “holocaust” has become synonymous with the genocide of millions under the Third Reich. The etymology of the word itself is interesting. From etymonline.com:

In the mid-13th Century, holocaust meant to “sacrifice by fire”, it was a “burnt offering”. The word coming from the Greek holokauston “a thing wholly burnt,” in turn from holos meaning the “whole” and kaustos, the adjectival form of the verb “to burn”, kaiein.


It was given a broader meaning as a “massacre, destruction of a large number of persons” from 1833 but not recorded as referring to the “Nazi genocide of European Jews in World War II, until 1957. The genocide was known to Hebrew speakers as Shoah “catastrophe.”

Full etymology here.