decimate

verb
dec·i·mate | \ˈde-sə-ˌmāt \
decimated; decimating

Definition of decimate 

transitive verb

1 : to select by lot and kill every tenth man of decimate a regiment

2 : to exact a tax of 10 percent from poor as a decimated Cavalier— John Dryden

3a : to reduce drastically especially in number cholera decimated the population Kamieniecki's return comes at a crucial time for a pitching staff that has been decimated by injuries.— Jason Diamos

b : to cause great destruction or harm to firebombs decimated the city an industry decimated by recession

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Other Words from decimate

decimation \ˌde-sə-ˈmā-shən \ noun

Did You Know?

The connection between decimate and the number ten harks back to a brutal practice of the army of ancient Rome. A unit that was guilty of a severe crime (such as mutiny) was punished by selecting and executing one-tenth of its soldiers, thereby scaring the remaining nine-tenths into obedience. It's no surprise that the word for this practice came from Latin decem, meaning "ten." From this root we also get our word decimal and the name of the month of December, originally the tenth month of the calendar before the second king of Rome decided to add January and February. In its extended uses decimate strayed from its "tenth" meaning and nowadays refers to the act of destroying or hurting something in great numbers.

Examples of decimate in a Sentence

This kind of moth is responsible for decimating thousands of trees in our town. Budget cuts have decimated public services in small towns. Alexander’s ego killed more of his men in a needless trek through the Gedrosian Desert than Darius III ever did on the battlefield. That disaster and the dirty fighting in Bactria merit almost no screen time. Also omitted is Alexander's introduction to the Western world of decimation, crucifixion, and other phenomena. —“Gay Old Times?” P. 40, Victor Davis Hanson, NATIONAL REVIEW Vol. LVI No. 24, December 27, 2004 Resistance attacks on German forces...often compromised a second element of Resistance operations—intelligence gathering—by focusing attention on Resistance networks and invariably leading to their decimation. —“The Myth of The French ... ” P. 99, Douglas Porch, MHQ Vol. 10 No. 2, Winter 1998 Gay men in whom AIDS was diagnosed in the early years, he asserts, were not being truthful if they denied drug use. More recently, he believes, the decimation of their ranks is exacerbated by treatment with AZT (zidovudine). Mr. Duesberg feels that AZT is so toxic it should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. —“The Unbeliever” P. 8, June E. Osborn, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, April 7, 1996 In the 1600s, four or five times more African slaves arrived than in the previous century. One reason was the decimation of the American Indian population. —“West Africa, the Atlantic ...” P. 13, AFRICAN AMERICANS AND CIVIL RIGHTS, Michael L. Levine, Oryx Press 973.049 L57a 1996
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Recent Examples on the Web

The group was militantly opposed to the governments of the United States and Japan, and Mr. Asahara preached that by the year 2000, Japan would be decimated by a series of attacks from America and its allies. Austin Ramzy, New York Times, "Japan Executes Cult Leader Behind 1995 Sarin Gas Subway Attack," 5 July 2018 With Japan's fleet decimated, soon the war would be over. Matthew Moss, Popular Mechanics, "How the American Aircraft Carrier Became King of the Seas," 22 May 2018 The hitch is that while keeping her life secluded to a few square meters, the same bubble offers Sarah the perfect protection when the smoke hits the fan and most of Paris’ population is decimated by lethal fumes. Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Just a Breath Away' ('Dans la brume'): Film Review," 9 Apr. 2018 Reporting and editing staffs at papers such as the Mercury have been decimated, newspaper buildings sold off for millions of dollars, and editing and writing functions centralized in distant hubs. Bob Fernandez, chicagotribune.com, "Digital First newspapers face harsh cuts, potential ‘lights-out scenario’," 17 May 2018 American business around the world, meanwhile, would be decimated. Seth Cropsey, WSJ, "America Can’t Afford to Cede the Seas," 14 May 2018 The community was decimated by influenza in 1918, and then again in World War II. Joan Nathan, New York Times, "A Seder Feast in Provence, With Roots in Ancient Rome," 20 Mar. 2018 Now, other companies in the parts industry were decimated or destroyed by those jobs’ movement overseas. Ed Wallace, star-telegram, "Getting Mileage Out of Jobs," 26 May 2018 Although the front end of the Model S was decimated, the driver sustained only a broken foot. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, "NHTSA looking into Tesla crash in Utah," 16 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decimate.' 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 decimate

1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for decimate

Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem ten

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Statistics for decimate

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decimate

The first known use of decimate was in 1660

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More Definitions for decimate

decimate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of decimate

: to destroy a large number of (plants, animals, people, etc.)

: to severely damage or destroy a large part of (something)

decimate

verb
dec·i·mate | \ˈde-sə-ˌmāt\
decimated; decimating

Kids Definition of decimate

1 : to destroy a large number of The insects decimated thousands of trees.

2 : to severely damage or destroy a large part of

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