dec·​i·​mate ˈde-sə-ˌmāt How to pronounce decimate (audio)
decimated; decimating

transitive verb

: to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
decimate a regiment
: to exact a tax of 10 percent from
poor as a decimated CavalierJohn Dryden
: 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
: to cause great destruction or harm to
firebombs decimated the city
an industry decimated by recession
decimation 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. The word comes from Latin decem, meaning "ten." 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 In 2017, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that decimated Southwest Florida, created a five-foot storm surge that flooded the region for days. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 16 July 2024 Roads turned into rivers, trees toppled, homes decimated, and millions plunged into darkness in the heat of the summer. Chris Dipentima, Hartford Courant, 14 July 2024 Filming in Los Angeles has been slow to bounce back after production in the region was decimated by Hollywood’s historic season of strikes, along with industry contraction in content spend. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 July 2024 Catch up quick: The state temporarily allowed to-go and delivery cocktails as part of a pandemic-era exception meant to boost restaurants and bars decimated by sales losses. Lucille Sherman, Axios, 10 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for decimate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'decimate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem ten

First Known Use

1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of decimate was in 1660


Dictionary Entries Near decimate

Cite this Entry

“Decimate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


dec·​i·​mate ˈdes-ə-ˌmāt How to pronounce decimate (audio)
decimated; decimating
: to pick by lot and kill every tenth man of
the Roman army would decimate a legion for cowardice
: to destroy a large part of
a population decimated by an epidemic
decimation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on decimate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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