1560s, "to destroy the structural character of (a building, wall, etc.), by violently pulling it to pieces," from French demoliss-, present-participle stem of démolir "to destroy, tear down" (late 14c.), from Latin demoliri "tear down," from de "down" (see de-) + moliri "build, construct," from moles (genitive molis) "massive structure" (see mole (n.3)). Figurative sense of "to destroy, lay waste" is from 1610s; humorously, "to consume," by 1756. Related: Demolished; demolishing.