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In recent reading about the pandemic, suddenly I'm encountering the word 消杀. It doesn't appear in any dictionary I'm aware of, but it seems to be used in formal communication. I also encountered it in this funny translation doing the rounds on WeChat:

A translation from Chinese to English where 消杀 is humorously translated as "killing"

My guess is that it means something like "to kill through disinfecting", with my logic: 消 is short for 消毒 = "to disinfect" and 杀 is short for 杀死 = "to kill".

Question: Is 消杀 (xiāoshā) a new word, and what does it mean?

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  • Since both 杀菌 & 消毒 means to just disinfect or sterilize, then perhaps 消杀, sounding like a degree higher in terms of "killability", then maybe it means to "eradicate" to distinguish it from the other two? Apr 19 at 4:40
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    Reference works that have included the term include:《汉语大词典》and《现代汉语大词典》- it is also on Wiktionary.
    – Mou某
    Apr 19 at 8:03

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Edit:

消杀 is not a new word, but in this context, 消 has to be short for 消毒(sterilize) and 杀 must be short for 杀菌 (sterilize)

消毒杀菌 (sterilize) is a common phrase. From the readers' standpoint, reducing 消毒杀菌 to 消杀 is a logical conclusion in this pandemic related context

Note: COVID-19 is not a germ (病菌), it is a virus (病毒). However, when people say "杀菌" (kill germs/ sterilize) it supposedly includes killing viruses

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  • It seems that this answer is not based on a reference work, but instead on personal knowledge of the language. Also, it seems that the word was not one that was known before. So I am considering downvoting this answer, as it doesn't seem to me to be authoritative, and it may be misleading. Apr 19 at 8:41
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    I say 消杀 came from 消毒杀菌 because it is about the pandemic. One of the most used measures by the government is sterilization. From a reader's standpoint, it is a logical conclusion. If I see 消杀工作 in a novel about spies, I would interpret 消杀 as 以暗殺手段消滅某人的工作 or 消滅證據殺人滅口的工作
    – Tang Ho
    Apr 19 at 10:20
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As Mou某 pointed out in a comment, 消杀 is in some dictionaries. “现代汉语大词典” (XHD) defines it with the terms 消除 and 抵消。

CC-CEDICT has the following:

  • "to eliminate; to remove" for 消除
  • "to counteract; to cancel out; to offset" for 抵消

So it seems that 消杀 doesn't just mean to sterilise. Indeed, XHD also gives a sample / 例句:

郭沫若 “论节奏”
两种异性质的东西相加的时候,是只有把效果互相消杀的。

Here 消杀 is used in the sense "抵消 / to counteract".

My attempt at a translation:

Guo Moruo / On Rhythm:

When adding elements of male and female types together, their effects will cancel each other out.

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  • But in the context of the OP's post, it has to be interpreted as "sterilize". If you read the term 師奶殺手 on entertainment news, the term 殺手 (killer) doesn't mean an actual murderer, it actually means 'idol'. To find the accurate translation, we have to read into the context too
    – Tang Ho
    Apr 19 at 14:40
  • Of course context is important. My point is, this is a word with multiple meanings. The OP was asking about this word in one context; it can be helpful to mention that the word has other uses in other contexts. The OP was asking also about dictionaries and how this word can be defined in a dictionary entry. Apr 19 at 14:54
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My take is that it's short for 死(destroy and kill).

E.g. 蚊虫的消杀工作. 病毒的消杀. etc.

There are also some other variants like 灭杀 which means the same thing.

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  • 消滅蚊虫不是入戶而該是在戶外吧?OP stated it is pandemic related, 消杀 means 消毒杀菌 make more sense
    – Tang Ho
    Apr 19 at 4:23
  • @TangHo 消杀 itself doesn't content or imply any objects. Being a verb, it can precede an object such as 病毒,蚊虫,etc. E.g. 消杀病毒,消杀蚊虫,etc.
    – dan
    Apr 19 at 7:54
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For the meaning, I agree with the other answers. 消杀 means "sterilize".

But I guess people forget about the first question: is 消杀 a new word? My answer is no. Earlier sample usage:

  • 长春研制出SARS病毒消杀仪 可防病房空气感染 (News in 2003)
  • WCD85—25/5①型消杀车及其高压喷雾装置的改进方法探讨 (Paper in 1999)
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消杀 is usually used in medicine and hygiene areas, it means to sterilize.

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