de·​cap·​i·​tate | \di-ˈka-pə-ˌtāt, dē-\
decapitated; decapitating

Definition of decapitate 

transitive verb

: to cut off the head of : behead

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Other Words from decapitate

decapitation \ -​ˌka-​pə-​ˈtā-​shən \ noun
decapitator \ -​ˈka-​pə-​ˌtā-​tər \ noun

Synonyms for decapitate


behead, guillotine, head

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Did You Know?

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

At the time, the team reported that a volcanic cloud had launched a stone door jamb toward the man, decapitating him. New York Times, "He Died at Pompeii, but His Head Wasn’t Crushed by a Block," 29 June 2018 The scene reaches its tragic climax when Charlie, hanging halfway out of the car window, is decapitated as Peter swerves off the road to avoid an animal. Jen Yamato,, "Behind the most disturbing scenes of horror hit 'Hereditary'," 12 June 2018 Nixey closes her book with the description of another Athena, in the city of her name, being decapitated around A.D. 529, her defiled body used as a steppingstone into what was once a world-renowned school of philosophy. Bettany Hughes, New York Times, "How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World," 8 June 2018 This week’s King, Snow Blind is a warm weather treat that — just a guess here — could melt the cockles of an explorer-decapitating Tuunbaq. Peter Rowe,, "Winning the World: Local brewers take global honors," 10 May 2018 He was sentenced to death in 2007 for the murder of Jeremiah Miller, 22, whose decapitated and dismembered torso was found in a suitcase inside a dumpster at a Las Vegas motel. Editors, USA TODAY, "World Cup semifinal, NATO summit: 5 things you need to know Wednesday," 11 July 2018 Son decapitated mother using butterknife, his teeth and bare hands, deputy testifies Four-and-a-half months after Welch was murdered, another Tacoma girl – Jennifer Bastian – was found raped and strangled in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. King-tv, USA TODAY, "DNA on napkin leads to charges in 32-year-old cold case," 23 June 2018 Earlier this month, Terrelle Johnson, 29, was detained on murder charges after police discovered his 51-year-old mother’s decapitated body in his backyard. Chris Harris,, "Mississippi Man Decapitated His Mom Using a Butter Knife and Teeth," 22 June 2018 His naked body — decapitated, dismembered, discarded — was found in front of a black cemetery just outside Jasper. New York Times, "In Texas, a Decades-Old Hate Crime, Forgiven but Never Forgotten," 9 July 2018

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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Statistics for decapitate

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for decapitate

The first known use of decapitate was circa 1611

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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 \
decapitated; decapitating

Kids Definition of decapitate

: to cut off the head of : behead


transitive verb
de·​cap·​i·​tate | \di-ˈkap-ə-ˌtāt \
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 \ noun


de·​cap·​i·​tate | \-ə-ˌtāt, -ət-ət \

Medical Definition of decapitate (Entry 2 of 2)

: relating to or being a decapitated experimental animal

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Comments on decapitate

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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