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

Officials say 58 people were decapitated or asphyxiated by the fire. Washington Post, "In Brazil, tough-on-crime approach packs prisons," 1 Aug. 2019 Most of the inmates were killed by asphyxiation caused by a fire, but 16 were decapitated. The Economist, "Politics this week," 1 Aug. 2019 At least 16 of the victims were decapitated, authorities said. Terrence Mccoy And,, "Dozens of inmates killed in Brazil prison riot," 29 July 2019 The Kansas waterslide on which a 10-year-old boy was decapitated two years ago will be demolished later this year, officials announced Thursday. Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, "Kansas water park to tear down slide 2 years after boy's beheading," 12 July 2018 Prosecutors said Christensen raped, choked and stabbed Zhang before beating her to death with a bat and decapitating her. Fox News, "Ex-University of Illinois doctoral student gets life in prison in slaying of visiting Chinese scholar," 19 July 2019 Federal prosecutors said that Christensen raped, choked and stabbed Zhang before beating her to death with a bat and decapitating her, but her remains have never been found. Phil Helsel, NBC News, "Illinois man sentenced to life for killing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang," 19 July 2019 More Mythical Monsters The Popol Vuh, a text that covers the history and mythology of the Kʼicheʼ, says that Camazotz had the head of a bat and killed his victims by attacking them at the neck and ultimately decapitating them. Andrew Daniels, Popular Mechanics, "The OG Batman Was Actually a Mesoamerican Humanoid Monster," 28 June 2019 Christensen then dragged Zhang into his bathroom, and pummeled her in the head with the bat before decapitating her, Miller said. CBS News, "Doctoral student's defense lawyers in trial of Chinese scholar's brutal death: He did it," 13 June 2019

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

8 Aug 2019

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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 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 decapitation (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

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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).


a period when something is suspended

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