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.
Recent Examples on the Web Egyptian hotel chef Ramadan el-Sayed is among thousands sent home in March as the pandemic began to decimate Dubai’s tourism industry. Angela Charlton And Tassanee Vejpongsa, Houston Chronicle, "Despite global reopening push, some jobs are gone for good," 6 June 2020 Aid agencies say Yemen is in dire need of assistance as the coronavirus threatens to decimate a health care system already ravaged by civil war., "UK lawmakers queue to vote as Parliament adjusts to COVID-19," 2 June 2020 After last week's double male elimination sent Jenna and Kailah home, decimating the Holy Trinity alliance, a fire has been lit under many of the vets to finally go into elimination for their shot at a red skull. Sydney Bucksbaum,, "The Challenge: Total Madness recap: Challenge legends finally go head-to-head," 4 June 2020 These developments make investors nervous and the market cap of NBFCs is decimated. Prathamesh Mulye, Quartz India, "A timeline of the crises that brought India’s $370 billion shadow banking sector to its knees," 2 June 2020 Mayor Eric Johnson’s proposal was sparked by the coronavirus’s effect on the economy and by decimated city revenues. Hayat Norimine, Dallas News, "Dallas to expand policy that gives priority to local businesses seeking city contracts," 28 May 2020 The city’s $363 billion economy is also battling a recession, with the second blow coming from the coronavirus pandemic that’s decimated industries from retail to tourism. Fortune, "Hong Kong’s richest man defends Beijing’s national security law," 27 May 2020 But few places in the nation have been as decimated as Detroit, where more than 10,000 people have been sickened and more than 1,200 have died, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Georgea Kovanis, Detroit Free Press, "In the coronavirus era, death is difficult. But so is being a mourner," 20 May 2020 How Boeing and Airbus Plan to Survive as Coronavirus Reshapes Aviation Airline executives said people are starting to book flights again, a potential inflection point after the coronavirus pandemic decimated travel demand in recent months. Alison Sider And Doug Cameron, WSJ, "Airlines Detect Signs of Nascent Recovery," 19 May 2020

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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Time Traveler for decimate

Time Traveler

The first known use of decimate was in 1660

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Statistics for decimate

Last Updated

19 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Decimate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for decimate


How to pronounce decimate (audio)

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)


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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