General English


  • adjective complete, or with everything added together


  • noun an amount which is complete, with everything added up


  • adjective throughout the whole body


  • verb to destroy completely. A widespread term, especially among teenagers, since the 1960s; it derives from the notion of a ‘total wreck’ or a ‘total loss’ in official accident reports. Originally an Americanism, it is now heard elsewhere.

Origin & History of “total”

Total goes back ultimately to Latin tōtus ‘whole’ (source also of French tout, Italian tutto, and Spanish todo ‘all’). from it was derived medieval Latin totālis ‘of the whole’, which passed into English via Old French total. Tot (18th c.), as in ‘tot up’, is short for total. Totalizator was coined in Australia in the late 1870s, and the abbreviation tote started life in Australian English too.