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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Since the 1960s, fires, mudslides, pesticides, fungal infections, loss of habitat and other threats have decimated these frogs, which grow up to 5 inches in length and are named because of their crimson undersides. Louis Sahagunstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Endangered plants bulldozed in Topanga State Park," 1 Aug. 2019 An outbreak of African swine fever has decimated China's pig population in recent months, tightening supply in the world's largest pork market and sending prices soaring. Michelle Toh, CNN, "China has a new plan to solve its pork problem," 26 July 2019 Mississippi Jackson: Persistent flooding across wildlife management areas has decimated some wildlife habitats and food supplies, leading the state to allow supplemental deer feeding in Issaquena and Warren counties. USA TODAY, "Arthur Ashe, missing Marilyn, pacifier-eating pup: News from around our 50 states," 21 June 2019 On Bioko Island, off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, for example, hunting for bushmeat has decimated populations of the island’s seven endemic monkey species, which are all endangered. Jani Actman, National Geographic, "What is bushmeat?," 19 June 2019 Widespread crop destruction has decimated rural incomes and threatened food security. Mokgweetsi Masisi, WSJ, "Hunting Elephants Will Help Them Survive," 19 June 2019 Northern pike, for example, have decimated salmon and trout populations in Southcentral Alaska, and have cost the state and federal government millions of dollars. Devin Kelly, Anchorage Daily News, "Goldfish are thriving in a Midtown Anchorage pond. Alaska wildlife biologists want them gone.," 18 June 2019 The flight of industry has decimated a small Pennsylvania town, and the inundation of opioids has its back against the wall – and some of the city’s men are paying the price. Andrew Keiper, Fox News, "Pennsylvania man finds hope after years of addiction and despair," 24 June 2018 Five-digit inflation has decimated purchasing power and lead to widespread hunger. Jim Wyss And Antonio Maria Delgado, miamiherald, "Can Venezuela survive another Maduro 'victory?' | Miami Herald," 18 May 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about decimate

Listen to Our Podcast about decimate

Statistics for decimate

Last Updated

7 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decimate

The first known use of decimate was in 1660

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on decimate

What made you want to look up decimate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to move or obtain by small maneuvers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!