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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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 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, "Meet the Sea Slugs That Chop Off Their Heads and Grow New Bodies," 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, "Sea Slug’s Decapitated Head Crawls Around Before Regrowing a Body," 10 Mar. 2021 People have threatened to come by and lynch me, decapitate me. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "Dominion Voting Systems CEO confirms defamation suits against conservative operatives will be coming," 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,, "Cal and Stanford’s rivalry in a pandemic feels like anything but a Big Game week," 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,, "Brother of Kenner rape suspect arrested, accused of threatening to harm family of 10-year-old victim," 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, "France Terrorist Attack: What Happened in Nice at the Notre Dame Basilica?," 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, "'Murder hornet' captured in trap for first time in Washington," 5 Aug. 2020 Sharon Stone shows up as a vengefully rich matriarch whose main character trait is asking people to decapitate someone. Darren Franich,, "Ratched ratchets up the crazy and goes off the deep end: Review," 14 Sep. 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

Time Traveler

The first known use of decapitate was circa 1611

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Statistics for decapitate

Last Updated

2 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Decapitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 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

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