Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

guillotine

play
noun guil·lo·tine \ˈgi-lə-ˌtēn; ˌgē-(y)ə-ˈ, ˈgē-(y)ə-ˌ\

Simple Definition of guillotine

  • : a machine with a heavy blade that was used in the past to cut off the heads of people who had been sentenced to death

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of guillotine

  1. 1 :  a machine for beheading by means of a heavy blade that slides down in vertical guides

  2. 2 :  a shearing machine or instrument (as a paper cutter) that in action resembles a guillotine

  3. 3 chiefly British :  closure by the imposition of a predetermined time limit on the consideration of specific sections of a bill or portions of other legislative business

guillotine

transitive verb

Origin and Etymology of guillotine

French, from Joseph Guillotin †1814 French physician


First Known Use: 1790


GUILLOTINE Defined for Kids

1

guillotine

play
noun guil·lo·tine \ˈgi-lə-ˌtēn\

Definition of guillotine for Students

  1. :  a machine for cutting off a person's head with a heavy blade that slides down two grooved posts




2

guillotine

play
verb guil·lo·tine

Definition of guillotine for Students

guillotined

guillotining

  1. :  to cut off a person's head with a guillotine




Medical Dictionary

guillotine

play play
noun guil·lo·tine \ˈgil-ə-ˌtēn, ˈgē-ə-ˌtēn\

Medical Definition of guillotine

  1. :  a surgical instrument that consists of a ring and handle with a knife blade which slides down the handle and across the ring and that is used for cutting out a protruding structure (as a tonsil) capable of being placed in the ring



Biographical Note for guillotine

Guillotin

\gē-yȯ-taⁿ\play ,

Joseph–Ignace

(1738–1814), French surgeon. Guillotin was a member of the National Assembly during the time of the French Revolution. In 1789 he proposed the passage of a law requiring that all death sentences be carried out by decapitation, a practice up to that time reserved for the nobility. At the time decapitation was perceived to be a humane method of execution, and its uniform application was intended as a statement of egalitarian ideals. Various decapitation devices had been in use for centuries, but an improvement was commissioned, and subsequently introduced in 1792. Gradually the device became known as the guillotine as it became associated with the man who had advocated it as a humane instrument of capital punishment. The surgical instrument known as the guillotine is so called because it features a similar sliding-blade action.



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up guillotine? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

in the capacity or character of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

fox-in-summer-forest

Which of these is a synonym of inchoate?

formless massive experimental frightening
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ