de·​cap·​i·​tate | \ di-ˈka-pə-ˌtāt How to pronounce decapitate (audio) , dē- \
decapitated; decapitating

Definition of decapitate

transitive verb

: to cut off the head of : behead

Other Words from decapitate

decapitation \ di-​ˌka-​pə-​ˈtā-​shən How to pronounce decapitate (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
decapitator \ di-​ˈka-​pə-​ˌtā-​tər How to pronounce decapitate (audio) , dē-​ \ noun

Synonyms for decapitate


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Decapitation is a quick and fairly painless way to go, so it was once considered suitable only for nobles like Sir Walter Raleigh, Mary Queen of Scots, and two of Henry VIII's unfortunate wives. The invention of the guillotine in the 18th century was meant to make execution swifter and more painless than hanging or a badly aimed blow by the executioner's sword.

Examples of decapitate in a Sentence

a particularly gruesome series of murders in which the victims were decapitated
Recent Examples on the Web Others used machetes to hack off spear and lance points, and then decapitate their foes. Scott Dalton, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 July 2022 Even a 14-game winning streak by the second-place Atlanta Braves hasn’t been able to decapitate New York. Dan Schlossberg, Forbes, 26 June 2022 Making matters worse, there is a serial killer on the loose, a killer so violent that his throat slashes basically decapitate his victims, one of whom was found near Julia and Francis’ apartment. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 2 June 2022 Compare that to Russia’s initial goals—to occupy Kyiv, decapitate the Ukrainian government, capture all of Donbas and Ukraine’s Black Sea coast and destroy the Ukrainian armed forces. David Axe, Forbes, 19 May 2022 In a war marked by Russia’s underperformance, by its inability to take Kyiv and its failed attempt to decapitate the Ukrainian leadership, control of the devastated metropolis amounts to a significant and horrific Kremlin victory. Washington Post, 24 Apr. 2022 His warnings have been echoed by Western officials who say Putin intends to decapitate Ukraine's pro-western government and possibly replace it with a Moscow-friendly regime. NBC News, 26 Feb. 2022 When the plants are new and tiny, Yiesla said, it’s enough to decapitate them with a hoe or cultivator that just skims the soil surface. Beth Botts,, 3 Apr. 2022 Their initial theory of victory was to decapitate the Ukrainian government, secure a land bridge to Crimea and then seize as much land as possible. Peter Bergen, CNN, 2 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decapitate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of decapitate

circa 1611, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for decapitate

Late Latin decapitatus, past participle of decapitare, from Latin de- + capit-, caput head — more at head

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The first known use of decapitate was circa 1611

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Last Updated

19 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Decapitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for decapitate


de·​cap·​i·​tate | \ di-ˈka-pə-ˌtāt How to pronounce decapitate (audio) \
decapitated; decapitating

Kids Definition of decapitate

: to cut off the head of : behead


transitive verb
de·​cap·​i·​tate | \ di-ˈkap-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce decapitate (audio) \
decapitated; decapitating

Medical Definition of decapitate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to cut off the head of

Other Words from decapitate

decapitation \ -​ˌkap-​ə-​ˈtā-​shən How to pronounce decapitate (audio) \ noun


de·​cap·​i·​tate | \ -ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce decapitate (audio) , -ət-ət How to pronounce decapitate (audio) \

Medical Definition of decapitate (Entry 2 of 2)

: relating to or being a decapitated experimental animal

More from Merriam-Webster on decapitate

Nglish: Translation of decapitate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of decapitate for Arabic Speakers


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