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

Ayana is taking steps to ensure that Flores doesn’t suffer the same fate as Bali, where environmental regulations were nonexistent as its popularity soared, leaving coral reefs decimated and some beaches littered with plastic. Sebastian Modak, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Now Is the Time to Visit Flores, Indonesia," 16 Nov. 2018 Just before the end of the first round, point guards Aaron Holiday of UCLA and Landry Shamet of Wichita State came off the board, so the point guard pool was getting decimated and the Magic could do nothing about it but wait to see who fell to No. Chris Hays, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Magic select Tulane's Melvin Frazier, Maryland's Justin Jackson in 2nd round," 22 June 2018 Cuomo shredded through his power chords with a big grin on his face and decimated an awesome guitar solo before tackling the final chorus. Mackenzie Cummings-grady, Billboard, "Weezer Performs Viral Hit 'Africa' On 'Jimmy Kimmel' With Cameo From Toto's Steve Porcaro: Watch," 13 June 2018 The promise of job training rings hollow to workers in areas dependent on industries that have been decimated by trade. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Wage Stagnation Is Everyone’s Problem," 14 Aug. 2018 And while director Peyton Reed’s movie trashes a few San Francisco tourist destinations, no country is decimated, and no planet gets pummeled. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, "Ant-Man and the Wasp and the Importance of Small Stories in Big Universes," 5 July 2018 Faced with a failure to agree on anything else, would Theresa May want to go down in history as the prime minister whose last act was to decimate industry and trade and force the stockpiling of food and medicine? James Mackintosh, WSJ, "When to Pounce on a Brexit Buying Opportunity," 18 Dec. 2018 In September, three sources familiar with the Trump administration’s strategy toward Beijing told me that the White House wants to decimate China’s economy. Alex Ward, Vox, "Trump and Xi Jinping could fix parts of the US-China relationship in Argentina. They won’t.," 29 Nov. 2018 That would be a reversal for an industry decimated by smelter shutdowns in states such as South Carolina and Kentucky at a time Chinese production of the lightweight metal surged, pushing down global prices. Bloomberg.com, "Zuckerberg Testifies Before Senate Panel," 10 Apr. 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

20 Mar 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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