Simple Definition of decimate
: to destroy a large number of (plants, animals, people, etc.)
: to severely damage or destroy a large part of (something)
Full Definition of decimate
1 : to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
2 : to exact a tax of 10 percent from <poor as a decimated Cavalier — John Dryden>
3 a : to reduce drastically especially in number <cholera decimated the population> b : to cause great destruction or harm to <firebombs decimated the city> <an industry decimated by recession>
Examples of decimate in a sentence
This kind of moth is responsible for decimating thousands of trees in our town.
Budget cuts have decimated public services in small towns.
Did You Know?
The connection between decimate and the number ten harks back to a brutal practice of the army of ancient Rome. A unit that was guilty of a severe crime (such as mutiny) was punished by selecting and executing one-tenth of its soldiers, thereby scaring the remaining nine-tenths into obedience. It's no surprise that the word for this practice came from Latin decem, meaning "ten." From this root we also get our word decimal and the name of the month of December, originally the tenth month of the calendar before the second king of Rome decided to add January and February. In its extended uses decimate strayed from its "tenth" meaning and nowadays refers to the act of destroying or hurting something in great numbers.
Origin of decimate
Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem ten
First Known Use: 1660
Rhymes with decimate
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DECIMATE Defined for Kids
Definition of decimate for Students
1 : to destroy a large number of <The insects decimated thousands of trees.>
2 : to severely damage or destroy a large part of
Seen and Heard
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