Evacuate

One traditional definition of evacuate is to empty, and until the late 20th century, evacuate was often used as a polite way of saying empty one’s bowels. So, for example, if you were to say I have to evacuate immediately, someone might direct you to the restroom. But while this obsolescent use of evacuate still entertains people who take an interest in English usage, there is nothing wrong with using evacuate to mean to withdraw from or vacate a place, and these senses have in fact been common for many centuries, so don’t listen to anyone who says evacuate can only properly mean to empty.

Examples

Residents of a town near the Fukushima nuclear plant venture back to their homes for the first time since they evacuated. [Los Angeles Times]

An Illinois mayor urged some residents on Friday to make plans to evacuate the town. [CNN]

With hundreds of his classmates, he evacuated and ran north along the Hudson River. [City Journal]

Up to 100 homes are expected to be evacuated due to a fire at a garage. [BBC News]

Dormitory residents were evacuating upon firefighters’ arrival. [Davidson News]

Mr Shackleton said the factory staff did everything right in evacuating the building and dampening down the kilns. [Stuff.co.nz]

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