AskDefine | Define megadeath

Dictionary Definition

megadeath n : the death of a million people; "they calibrate the effects of atom bombs in megadeaths"

User Contributed Dictionary



From mega + death.


  1. one million deaths, especially as a unit of measure in reference to nuclear warfare

Extensive Definition

This article is about Megadeath, not to be confused with Megadeth, an American thrash metal band.
Megadeath (or megacorpse) is a term for one million deaths. It was coined in 1953 by RAND military strategist Herman Kahn and popularized in his 1960 book On Thermonuclear War. In Kahn's view, alternate scenarios in which the United States of America suffers 10 megadeaths instead of 100 should be weighed as "tragic but distinguishable outcomes." Though the term was created in order to discuss the likely consequences of conducting nuclear war, such a large number of deaths could also be associated with other weapons of mass destruction and extreme cases of democide.
In Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, General Buck Turgidson (played by George C. Scott) carries a binder titled "World Targets in Megadeaths". In the film, Turgidson promotes an all-out pre-emptive strike with the phrase "...choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless, distinguishable post-war environments...".
The word megadeath was adopted (and adapted) by The Megadeaths, a precursor to Pink Floyd, and in 1983 by the American thrash metal band Megadeth. A parody heavy metal band called Megadeath closed the 1973 National Lampoon off-Broadway hit play and sound recording Lemmings, a parody of the Woodstock Festival.


  • Kahn, Herman. (1960) On Thermonuclear War. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-313-20060-2

External links

Death by Government
megadeath in German: Megatote
megadeath in Spanish: Megamuerte
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