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


verb \ˈslā\

Simple Definition of slay

  • : to kill (someone or something) especially in a battle or war

  • : to kill (someone)

  • : to delight or amuse (someone) very much

Full Definition of slay

slew play \ˈslü\ also especially in sense 2 slayedslain play \ˈslān\ slay·ing

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to kill violently, wantonly, or in great numbers; broadly :  to strike down :  kill

  3. 2 :  to delight or amuse immensely <slayed the audience>

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  kill, murder

slay·er noun

Examples of slay

  1. The knight slew the dragon.

  2. <millions have been slain worldwide by this dreadful disease>

Origin of slay

Middle English slen, from Old English slēan to strike, slay; akin to Old High German slahan to strike, Middle Irish slachta stricken

First Known Use: before 12th century

Synonym Discussion of slay

kill, slay, murder, assassinate, dispatch, execute mean to deprive of life. kill merely states the fact of death caused by an agency in any manner <killed in an accident> <frost killed the plants>. slay is a chiefly literary term implying deliberateness and violence but not necessarily motive <slew thousands of the Philistines>. murder specifically implies stealth and motive and premeditation and therefore full moral responsibility <convicted of murdering a rival>. assassinate applies to deliberate killing openly or secretly often for political motives <terrorists assassinated the Senator>. dispatch stresses quickness and directness in putting to death <dispatched the sentry with one bullet>. execute stresses putting to death as a legal penalty <executed by lethal gas>.

Seen and Heard

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


February 9, 2016

marked by high spirits and laughter

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

pince-nez duvet spindrift kittly-benders
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


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