“Holocaust” is a Greek-derived translation of the Hebrew term olah, which denotes a sort of ritual sacrifice in which the food offered is completely burnt up rather than being merely dedicated to God and then eaten. It was applied with bitter irony by Jews to the destruction of millions of their number in the Nazi death camps. Although phrases like “nuclear holocaust” and “Cambodian holocaust” have become common, you risk giving serious offense by using the word in less severe circumstances, such as calling a precipitous decline in stock prices a “sell-off holocaust.”

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