1. This is a back-formation from destruction, formed as a specific alternative to destroy to denote a calculated action, originally with reference to malfunctioning space missiles, then in other military or related contexts, and later in figurative uses. The normal past tense is destructed. Like all so-called ‘ergative’ verbs, it can be used transitively (with an object) and intransitively (without an object):

• At this point it was destroyed (or ‘destructed’ as the official explanation puts it) by remote control —Times, 1958

• This was the prevalent left view until Thatcher's third term destructed, and Labour triumphalism had one last go —New Statesman, 1992.

It is also used as a noun, normally in attributive position (before another noun), as in destruct system.
2. The reflexive form self-destruct appeared in the late 1960s, in North America, and follows the same grammatical functions of destruct. Its figurative uses have developed on both sides of the Atlantic to such an extent that this is now by far the most common use of the word, occurring typically in sports reports (defeated teams, failing managers, and so on) and political commentary:

• His country's presidency in the EU has self-destructed and yet we are expected to see him steer EU policy for the next six months —Times, 2003.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • destruct — (v.) to destroy, 1958, probably a back formation from DESTRUCTION (Cf. destruction) in the jargon of U.S. aerospace and defense workers to refer to deliberate destruction of a missile in flight by a friendly agent; popularized 1966 in form self… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Destruct — De*struct , v. t. [L. destructus, p. p. of destruere. See {Destroy}.] To destroy. [Obs.] Mede. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • destruct — index destroy (efface) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • destruct — ► VERB ▪ cause the destruction of. DERIVATIVES destructor noun …   English terms dictionary

  • destruct — ☆ destruct [di strukt′, dē′strukt΄ ] n. [back form. < DESTRUCTION] the deliberate destruction of a malfunctioning missile, rocket, etc. after its launch vi. to be automatically destroyed vt. to destroy (a rocket, etc.) deliberately by remote… …   English World dictionary

  • destruct — /di strukt /, adj. 1. serving or designed to destroy: a destruct mechanism on a missile. n. 2. the act or process of intentional destruction: One out of ten launchings ended in destructs. v.t. 3. to destroy. v.i. 4. to be destroyed. [1630 40;… …   Universalium

  • destruct — verb a) To intentionally cause the destruction of. b) To self destruct …   Wiktionary

  • destruct — de•struct [[t]dɪˈstrʌkt[/t]] 1) the act or process of intentional destruction, as of a rocket or missile 2) to destroy 3) cvb to self destruct • Etymology: 1955–60; back formation from destruction de•struc′tor, n …   From formal English to slang

  • destruct — (Roget s Thesaurus II) verb Aerospace. To pull down or break up so that reconstruction is impossible: demolish, destroy, dismantle, dynamite, knock down, level, pull down, pulverize, raze, tear down, wreck. See HELP …   English dictionary for students

  • destruct — de·struct || dɪ strÊŒkt n. destruction; intentional destruction through the explosion of missiles or rockets v. destroy, annihilate, ruin adj. serving to destroy or ruin …   English contemporary dictionary

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