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

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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 He’s been told by one of his doctors that if he is hit from behind, his spine could literally internally decapitate his head due to his extremely advanced degenerative disc disease. Annie Lane, oregonlive, 12 May 2021 The results of their experiments, published Monday in Current Biology, provide evidence that Elysia marginata, and a closely related species, Elysia atroviridis, purposefully decapitate themselves in order to facilitate the growth of a new body. New York Times, 8 Mar. 2021 Some sea slugs decapitate themselves and regrow fresh bodies in mere weeks, reports Annie Roth for the New York Times. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Mar. 2021 People have threatened to come by and lynch me, decapitate me. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, 24 Dec. 2020 The Axe debuted on the eve of a baseball game between the universities in 1899, when Stanford students used it to decapitate a straw man adorned in Cal blue and gold. Rusty Simmons,, 26 Nov. 2020 Bayron Paz claimed to have criminal connections in the Kenner area and threatened to pay someone to decapitate the girl's mother and harm other family members, according to Cunningham. Michelle Hunter,, 6 Nov. 2020 An official said one man’s throat was slit while a woman’s throat was cut in what looked like an attempt to decapitate her. Noemie Bisserbe And Sam Schechner, WSJ, 29 Oct. 2020 The hornets, nicknamed from their propensity to attack and kill honeybees, regularly decapitate the adult bugs and eat the larvae and pupae. Jessica Schladebeck, Star Tribune, 5 Aug. 2020

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.

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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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Time Traveler for decapitate

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The first known use of decapitate was circa 1611

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Cite this Entry

“Decapitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for decapitate



English Language Learners Definition of decapitate

: to cut off the head of (a person or animal)


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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