AskDefine | Define annihilation

Dictionary Definition



1 destruction by annihilating something [syn: obliteration]
2 total destruction; "bomb tests resulted in the annihilation of the atoll" [syn: disintegration]

User Contributed Dictionary



Derived from Latin nihil (nothing) and the prefix a-. Compare with French annihilation.


IPA: WEAE /ʌˈnaɪ.ə.le.ʃən/


  1. The act of reducing to nothing, or nonexistence; or the act of destroying the form or combination of parts under which a thing exists, so that the name can no longer be applied to it; as, the annihilation of a corporation.
  2. The state of being annihilated.
  3. The process of a particle and its corresponding anti-particle combining to produce energy.


The act of reducing to nothing
The state of being annihilated
  • Croatian: anihilacija
  • Finnish: tuhoutuminen
  • Italian: annientamento, annichilazione
  • Kurdish:
The process of a particle and its corresponding anti-particle combining to produce energy
  • Croatian: anihilacija
  • Finnish: annihilaatio
  • Italian: annientamento, annichilazione

Extensive Definition

Annihilation is defined as "total destruction" or "complete obliteration" of an object; having its root in the Latin nihil (nothing). A literal translation is "to make into nothing". Annihilation is the opposite of exnihilation, which means "to create something out of nothing".
In physics, the word is used to denote the process that occurs when a subatomic particle collides with its respective antiparticle. Since energy and momentum must be conserved, the particles are not actually made into nothing, but rather into new particles. Antiparticles have exactly opposite additive quantum numbers from particles, so the sums of all quantum numbers of the original pair are zero. Hence, any set of particles may be produced whose total quantum numbers are also zero as long as conservation of energy and conservation of momentum are obeyed.
During a low-energy annihilation, photon production is favored, since these particles have no mass. However, high-energy particle colliders produce annihilations where a wide variety of exotic heavy particles are created.

Examples of annihilation

Kaon to mix with the antikaon. This is an example of renormalization in quantum field theory— the field theory being necessary because the number of particles changes from one to two and back again.
When a low-energy electron annihilates a low-energy positron (anti-electron), they can only produce two or more gamma ray photons, since the electron and positron do not carry enough mass-energy to produce heavier particles. However, if one or both particles carry a larger amount of kinetic energy, various other particle pairs can be produced. See electron-positron annihilation.
The annihilation (or decay) of an electron-positron pair into a single photon, e+ + e- → γ, cannot occur because energy and momentum would not be conserved in this process. The reverse reaction is also impossible for this reason, except in the presence of another particle that can carry away the excess energy and momentum. However, in quantum field theory this process is allowed as an intermediate quantum state. Some authors justify this by saying that the photon exists for a time which is short enough that the violation of energy conservation can be accommodated by the uncertainty principle. Others choose to assign the intermediate photon a non-zero mass. (The mathematics of the theory are unaffected by which view is taken.) This opens the way for virtual pair production or annihilation in which a one-particle quantum state may fluctuate into a two-particle state and back again (coherent superposition). These processes are important in the vacuum state and renormalization of a quantum field theory. It also allows neutral particle mixing through processes such as the one pictured here.


  • Quantum Generations : A history of physics in the twentieth century
annihilation in Catalan: Aniquilació de matèria amb antimatèria
annihilation in Czech: Anihilace
annihilation in German: Annihilation
annihilation in Italian: Annichilazione
annihilation in French: Annihilation_%C3%A9lectrons-positrons
annihilation in Hebrew: איון
annihilation in Latvian: Anihilācija
annihilation in Lithuanian: Anihiliacija
annihilation in Dutch: Annihilatie
annihilation in Japanese: 対消滅
annihilation in Polish: Anihilacja
annihilation in Romanian: Anihilare
annihilation in Russian: Аннигиляция
annihilation in Slovak: Anihilácia
annihilation in Serbian: Анихилација
annihilation in Serbo-Croatian: Anihilacija
annihilation in Finnish: Annihilaatio
annihilation in Swedish: Annihilation
annihilation in Ukrainian: Анігіляція
annihilation in Chinese: 湮灭

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abolishment, abolition, abscission, amputation, annulment, bane, biological death, cessation of life, choking, choking off, clinical death, crossing the bar, curtains, death, death knell, debt of nature, decease, demise, departure, deracination, destruction, dissolution, doom, dying, ebb of life, elimination, end, end of life, ending, eradication, eternal rest, excision, exclusion, exit, expiration, extermination, extinction, extinguishment, extirpation, final summons, finger of death, going, going off, grave, hand of death, jaws of death, knell, last debt, last muster, last rest, last roundup, last sleep, leaving life, liquidation, loss of life, making an end, mutilation, negation, nullification, parting, passing, passing away, passing over, perishing, purge, quietus, release, rescission, rest, reward, rooting out, sentence of death, shades of death, shadow of death, silencing, sleep, snuffing out, somatic death, stifling, strangulation, suffocation, summons of death, suppression, uprooting, voiding
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