George Stimpson

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What is a holocaust?

Many go wrong on holocaust. There seems to be a widespread impression that this term means simply a "great disaster." It is derived from Greek holo, "whole," and kaustos, "burnt." Originally a holocaust was a sacrificial offering the whole of which was consumed by fire. Figuratively the term is properly applied to the destruction of a large number of human beings by fire but not by water or other elements. From the same source come caustic and cauterize. A caustic mark is one that burns. To cauterize the flesh is to burn it.