A number of other terms are also used to describe the genocide.
Since the mid-19th century, the word has been used by many authors to refer to large catastrophes and massacres, particularly those caused by immolation. According to the OED, the earliest attested such usage dates from 1671, but it became common in the 19th century. In 1833 the journalist Leitch Ritchie, writing about the medieval French monarch Louis VII, wrote that he "once made a holocaust of thirteen hundred persons in a church". This refers to his invasion of Vitry-le-François in 1142 during which the 1,300 inhabitants of the town were burnt alive in the church.
In the early twentieth century the term was widely used to refer to massacres of Armenians in Turkey, particularly during World War I. The Armenian Genocide is referenced in the title of a 1922 poem "The Holocaust" (published as a booklet) and the 1923 book "The Smyrna Holocaust" deals with arson and massacre of Armenians in Smyrna. In 1929, Winston Churchill referred to "helpless Armenians, men, women, and children together, whole districts blotted out in one administrative holocaust" (The World Crisis).
Before the Second World War, the possibility of another war was referred to as "another holocaust" (that is, a repeat of the First World War). With reference to the events of the war, writers in English from 1945 used the term in relation to events such as the fire-bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima, or the effects of a nuclear war, although from the 1950s onwards, it was increasingly used in English to refer to the Nazi genocide of the European Jews.
By the late 1950s, documents translated from Hebrew sometimes used the word "Holocaust" to translate "Shoah", as the Judeocide. This use can be found as early as May 23, 1943, in The New York Times, on page E6, in an article by Julian Meltzer, referring to feelings in Palestine about Jewish immigration of refugees from "the Nazi holocaust." By the late 1960s, the term was starting to be used in this sense without qualification. Nora Levin's 1968 book The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945 explains the meaning in its subtitle, but uses the unmoderated phrase "The Holocaust". An article called “Moral Trauma and the Holocaust” was published in the New York Times on February 12, 1968. However, it was not until the late 1970s that the Nazi genocide became the generally accepted conventional meaning of the word, when used unqualified and with a capital letter, a usage that also spread to other languages for the same period. The 1978 television miniseries titled "Holocaust" and starring Meryl Streep is often cited as the principal contributor to establishing the current usage in the wider culture.
The term became increasingly widespread as a synonym for "genocide" in the last decades of the 20th century to refer to mass murders in the form "X holocaust" (e.g. "Rwandan holocaust"). Examples are Rwanda, the Ukraine under Stalin, and the actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
In order to suggest comparison with Nazi murders other historical events have also been labeled "Holocausts", for example the oppression of lower caste groups in India ("Sudra Holocaust") or the slave trade ("African Holocaust"). Such usages are often heavily disputed. Even more contested is the use of the word in the older sense of "immolation" to refer to Allied WW2 bombings, since this is sometimes adopted to imply equivalence between the Allied and the Nazi war record.
Churban Europa, meaning "European Destruction" in Hebrew (as opposed to simply Churban, the destruction of the Second Temple), is also used.