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

Democrats just came off one of their best midterm years ever, picking up 40 seats in a blue wave that decimated the California GOP and expanding ground in more conservative suburban districts — one largely powered by women candidates. Ella Nilsen, Vox, "Bustos will focus her attention on Middle America ahead of 2020.," 29 Nov. 2018 Then came the Thomas Fire, considered the largest in California's history, which decimated hundreds of homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Heidi De Marco, chicagotribune.com, "The other victims: first responders to horrific disasters often suffer in solitude," 13 July 2018 Then came the Thomas Fire, considered the largest in California’s history, which decimated hundreds of homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Washington Post, "The Other Victims: First Responders To Horrific Disasters Often Suffer In Solitude," 9 July 2018 Hurricane Maria, which decimated Puerto Rico last October, led to mass relocations to the Sunshine State. Joe Reedy, BostonGlobe.com, "Florida officials make few changes for upcoming storm season," 1 June 2018 The Holocaust had decimated much of the Yiddish-speaking population in Europe. Charles Passy, WSJ, "Institute Gives Yiddish Songs a Fresh Star Turn," 20 Dec. 2018 Electric gates have been installed in Chicago to try to keep Asian carp from decimating the fish population of the Great Lakes. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Chicago River Actually Flows Backwards," 8 Oct. 2018 Meanwhile, lava from Fissure 8 continued to creep, after inundating Kapoho Bay and decimating what could be hundreds of houses in the nearby communities of Kapoho and Vacationland. Madison Park, CNN, "Ash eruption at Kilauea summit was so strong, it registered as a 5.4 earthquake," 7 June 2018 Stanton, for example, wanted Jeter to at least try to compete for a half season before decimating the Marlins roster. Dan Gartland, SI.com, "Giancarlo Stanton Hates the Miami Dinger Machine as Much as Derek Jeter Does," 20 Mar. 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

9 Jan 2019

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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