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

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 In many of these northern cities, art from this period is notoriously militaristic, abounding with skulls and bones and often showing war captives being killed and decapitated. Gabriel D. Wrobel, The Conversation, "Trophies made from human skulls hint at regional conflicts around the time of Maya civilization’s mysterious collapse," 10 June 2019 Early in the film, Annie’s daughter Charlie dies in a grisly freak accident: As her brother Peter drives her to the hospital to treat an allergic reaction, Charlie sticks her head out the window for air, only to be decapitated by a telephone pole. Katherine Fusco, The Atlantic, "Hereditary and the Monstrousness of Creative Moms," 11 July 2018 The bodies were then decapitated and priests removed the skin and muscle from the corpses’ heads. James Rogers, Fox News, "Gruesome human sacrifice discovery: Skulls reveal grisly secrets of lost Aztec city," 27 June 2018 Many investigations will instead rely on museum samples, like Djehutynakht’s decapitated head. New York Times, "The F.B.I. and the Mystery of the Mummy’s Head," 2 Apr. 2018 Almost immediately one of them tries to decapitate me. Luke O'brien, Town & Country, "Hot Pursuit," 1 Sep. 2013 When the General Pickens statue gets decapitated, of course suspicion is placed on the Serpents. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "OK, But Who The Heck is Tall Boy on "Riverdale"?," 24 Jan. 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

11 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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to complain fretfully

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