Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for March 21, 2021 is:

cannibalize • KAN-uh-buh-lyze  • verb

1 a : to take salvageable parts from (something, such as a disabled machine) for use in building or repairing another machine

b : to make use of (a part taken from one thing) in building, repairing, or creating something else

2 : to deprive of an essential part or element in creating or sustaining another facility or enterprise

3 : to take (sales) away from an existing product by selling or being sold as a similar but new product usually from the same manufacturer; also : to affect (something, such as an existing product) adversely by cannibalizing sales

4 : to practice cannibalism


“As it turns out, the company’s 787 campus in North Charleston is helping to downsize the design of the aircraft. The concern is that a new jet in the 270-passenger category would cannibalize the Dreamliner program, which remains a critical revenue source for Boeing.” — John McDermott, Post & Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), 26 Jan. 2021

“The origin of stars in the galactic thick disc is unclear, with some studies suggesting that they formed in a distinct, old galaxy that our younger and more massive Milky Way galaxy later cannibalized.” — West Hawaii Today, 23 Jan. 2021

Did you know?

During World War II, military personnel often used salvageable parts from disabled vehicles and aircraft to repair other vehicles and aircraft. This sacrifice of one thing for the sake of another of its kind must have reminded some folks of cannibalism by humans and animals because the process came to be known as cannibalizing. The armed forces of this time were also known to cannibalize—that is, to take away personnel from—units to build up other units. It didn’t take long for this military slang to become civilianized. Since its demobilization, the term has been used in a variety of contexts.

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