decimate

verb
dec·​i·​mate | \ ˈde-sə-ˌmāt How to pronounce decimate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce decimation (audio) \ 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

That money was used to fund grassland restoration efforts benefitting Michigan pheasants, rabbits and elk, and the eradication of the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that has the potential to decimate trees across the state. Michigan Wildlife Council, Detroit Free Press, "Proposed legislation boosts funding for Michigan conservation efforts," 28 June 2019 The 24th Division would be decimated in a matter of weeks. Sig Christenson, ExpressNews.com, "San Antonio veteran says his unit went ‘back to the Stone Age’ to survive Korean War rout," 25 June 2019 Will this really decimate rural Oregonian’s family budgets through gas tax hikes? Hillary Borrud | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive.com, "Oregon Senate Republicans’ walkout over climate vote: the 8 things you need to know to understand the standoff," 24 June 2019 And regardless of impending trade wars, even when beef prices are up, ranches cost a fortune in upkeep and can often be decimated if disease or drought or both plague the herd. Candice Rainey, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Colorado Ranch Retreat That Gives You a Real Taste of Cowboy Life," 20 July 2018 Here's the full synopsis from Hulu: Spring breakers are getting murdered in Neptune, thereby decimating the seaside town’s lifeblood tourist industry. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "We used to be friends: Veronica Mars is back in the first full season 4 trailer," 14 June 2019 Without the donations of others, most families finances would be decimated, which is why the Collins family continues to push for the impressive facility. Scott Springer, Cincinnati.com, "Maya's fiesty, strong spirit pays kindness forward at Mason, Kings lacrosse game," 18 Apr. 2018 But in recent years, Barnes & Noble has been decimated by the strength of online booksellers like Amazon and struggled to make a profit. Alexandra Alter, New York Times, "Barnes & Noble Is Sold to Hedge Fund After a Tumultuous Year," 7 June 2019 Entire forests have been decimated by the journalistic and academic work explaining the crisis, which reportedly cost Americans more than $12 trillion. Bethany Mclean, Town & Country, "This New Play The Lehman Trilogy Turns the Financial Crisis Into High Art," 29 Mar. 2019

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

10 Jul 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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