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

: 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

Full Definition of GUILLOTINE

:  a machine for beheading by means of a heavy blade that slides down in vertical guides
:  a shearing machine or instrument (as a paper cutter) that in action resembles a guillotine
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


French, from Joseph Guillotin †1814 French physician
First Known Use: 1790

Other Legal Terms

actionable, alienable, carceral, chattel, complicity, decedent, larceny, malfeasance, modus operandi
GUILLOTINE Defined for Kids


noun guil·lo·tine \ˈgi-lə-ˌtēn\

Definition of GUILLOTINE for Kids

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



Definition of GUILLOTINE for Kids

:  to cut off a person's head with a guillotine
Medical Dictionary


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

Medical Definition of GUILLOTINE

:  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

Guil·lo·tin \gē-y-taⁿ\ , 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.


Next Word in the Dictionary: guillotinerPrevious Word in the Dictionary: guillocheAll Words Near: guillotine
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears