Scorched earth policy

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The term scorched earth policy is an idiom with roots in ancient times. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase scorched earth policy, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

A scorched earth policy is a strategy that destroys anything that is useful to the enemy. The term originated as a military tactic; a retreating army would destroy any items that could be useful to the enemy like crops, weapons, bridges, etc. However, a scorched earth policy as a military tactic could also describe the advancing army’s practice of destroying crops, weapons, bridges, etc., to cripple a local populace. Today, the idiom scorched earth policy refers to any ruthless strategy that includes destruction in order to achieve a goal. For instance, a company that is threatened with a hostile takeover may engage in practices that make the company temporarily less viable, and therefore, less attractive for a takeover. The plural of the idiom scorched earth policy is scorched earth policies. Note that the word earth is not capitalized and scorched earth is often hyphenated, as in scorched-earth, though the Oxford English Dictionary prefers not to use the hyphen.


Joe Gerth: Bevin employs scorched-earth policy in classless exit from role as governor (The Courier Journal)

Unable to repulse the invading Japanese forces, the British practised a scorched-earth policy, destroying department stores, storage depots and warehouses along the port. (The Irrawaddy News Magazine)

A-Rod’s scorched-earth policy included litigation against the club and its medical staff and an overacted appearance on WFAN radio, claiming that he shouldn’t serve “one inning″ of a suspension. (The Times Herald-Record)

The “scorched earth policy” of the retreating Nazi army will serve only to multiply the suffering and hardships for the German people. (The Sandusky Register)