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 three-day conference has been close to decimated by cancellations from Western speakers as details emerged about Khashoggi’s gruesome death. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "On the eve of the Saudi economic summit, we’re about to see just how damaged they are in Silicon Valley," 23 Oct. 2018 The West Coast Option: Santa Barbara, California Just over six months after decimating mudslides hit the area, the West Coast town is welcoming visitors with open arms. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "5 Last-Minute Labor Day Weekend Getaways," 22 Aug. 2018 Walker has become known for his efforts to decimate unions, prompting Mitchell to campaign heavily on his union background and economic policy. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "How a black, firefighting union president plans to take on Scott Walker," 13 Aug. 2018 The dam’s collapse in the Southeast Asian country created deadly flash floods that decimated six villages in the Sanamxay district. Kaylen Ralph, Teen Vogue, "A Dam in Laos Collapsed, Leaving Hundreds of People Missing and Thousands More Homeless," 24 July 2018 During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, sailors stopping in the area brought with them black rats, which colonized about two thirds of the islands, decimating seabird populations. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Coral Reefs Need Fewer Rats and More Bird Poo," 12 July 2018 Then the scissors-wielding economists at the Treasury moved in to decimate, if not demolish, all military forces as swiftly as possible. Paul Kennedy, WSJ, "The RAF at 100: Masters of the Skies," 29 June 2018 Rich Sugg That one bad hire was Charlie Weis, who needed fewer than three seasons to decimate the program in terms of talent, credibility, relationships, and self-esteem. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Kansas AD Sheahon Zenger is fired, but the real loser is David Beaty | The Kansas City Star," 21 May 2018 The idea that this is going to decimate public school budgets is not accurate.’’ The House gave the bill preliminary approval in January. Holly Ramer, BostonGlobe.com, "N.H. school choice advocates press for bill’s passage," 2 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

13 Nov 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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