Thursday, August 13, 2009

Internecine Meaning and Usage




- of or relating to struggle within a nation, organization, or group.
- mutually destructive; ruinous or fatal to both sides.
- characterized by bloodshed or carnage.

"an internecine feud among proxy holders"
"internecine war"
“internecine feuds between aspirants to the throne”


Use internecine in a sentence:

1. The new Department of Homeland Security was created, among other reasons, to reduce the internecine competition between the various security agencies of the federal government.

2. The internecine strife between Lewis aficionados about the order of the Narnia books shows no signs of abating.

3. When the three brothers took over the family business together, it didn't take long for the internecine feuding to begin.

4. Their family was a victim of an internecine political struggle.

5. History demonstrates that brutal dictatorships and savage tribes engaged in internecine warfare are not transformed by handouts. After all, billions of dollars have already been poured into the country. What it needs is freedom, not welfare.

6. When high party officials are executed for corruption, it’s tough to find out whether it is a genuine case or a ploy in the internecine power struggles.

7. The Mongol people were plagued by internecine conflicts until Genghis Khan unified them and focused their aggression outwards on other peoples.

8. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.

9. Although the Irish were subsequently free from foreign invasion for 150 years, internecine clan warfare continued to drain their energies and resources.

10. Internecine strife in Gaza claimed its most senior victim yesterday when militants assassinated one of the most hated security chiefs there


exterminating, sanguinary, internal, domestic, baneful, brutal, calamitous, cataclysmal, cataclysmic, catastrophic, consuming, consumptive, deadly, deathful, deathly, demolishing, demolitionary, depredatory, desolating, destroying, destructive, devastating, disastrous, doomful, fatal, fateful, feral, fratricidal, killing, lethal, malign, malignant, mortal, nihilist, nihilistic, pernicious, ravaging, ruining, ruinous, savage, self-destructive, subversionary, subversive, suicidal, vandalic, vandalish, vandalistic, virulent, wasteful, wasting, withering

bloodless, constructive, lively, immortal, external


When is a mistake not a mistake? In language at least, the answer to this question is “When everyone adopts it,” and on rare occasions, “When it's in the dictionary.” The word internecine presents a case in point.

Today, it usually has the meaning “relating to internal struggle,” but in its first recorded use in English, in 1663, it meant “fought to the death.” How it got from one sense to another is an interesting story in the history of English.

The Latin source of the word, spelled both internecīnus and internecīvus, meant “fought to the death, murderous.” It is a derivative of the verb necāre, “to kill.” The prefix inter– was here used not in the usual sense “between, mutual” but rather as an intensifier meaning “all the way, to the death.”

This piece of knowledge was unknown to Samuel Johnson, however, when he was working on his great dictionary in the 18th century. He included internecine in his dictionary but misunderstood the prefix and defined the word as “endeavoring mutual destruction.” Johnson was not taken to task for this error. On the contrary, his dictionary was so popular and considered so authoritative that this error became widely adopted as correct usage. The error was further compounded when internecine acquired the sense “relating to internal struggle.”

This story thus illustrates how dictionaries are often viewed as providing norms and how the ultimate arbiter in language, even for the dictionary itself, is popular usage.

internecine. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved August 13, 2009, from website:



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