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

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 The agency has been decimated by funding shortfalls, leading to staff shortages and equipment falling into a state of disrepair, the audit found. Paul Berger, WSJ, "Audit Shows NJ Transit Riddled With Delays, Funding Gaps," 9 Oct. 2018 Elephants are the primary concern in Zambia and in Mozambique—where herds are being decimated faster than anywhere else in Africa. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "We know you hate the Internet of Things, but it’s saving megafauna from poachers," 6 June 2018 Most of the Al Saud family, along with most young Saudis, want access and acceptability in the U.S. Given that the crown prince has decimated much royal, religious and other opposition over the past two years, his hold on power is seemingly strong. Karen Elliott House, WSJ, "The Saudi Crown Prince’s Uncertain Fate," 22 Oct. 2018 Although photos of the incident show that the front end of the Model S was decimated in the crash, remarkably the woman sustained only a broken foot, says Tina Brown, public information officer with South Jordan's police department. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, "Elon Musk shakes up Tesla as another Model S faces crash queries," 14 May 2018 But after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, West accused President George W. Bush of not caring about black people due to the government’s slow response to the African-American communities decimated by the disaster. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "How Kanye West’s brand survives his controversies, explained by a crisis PR expert," 3 Oct. 2018 Six nights a week in the summer, the doctoral student at Virginia Tech tromps through the woods at Marine Corps Base Quantico in search of northern long-eared bats — a species decimated by a mysterious disease in recent years. Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post, "A mysterious disease is killing millions of bats. These scientists are trying to save them.," 12 July 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

12 Jun 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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