verb ex·e·cute \ ˈek-si-ˌkyüt \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of execute

executed; executing
1 : to carry out fully : put completely into effect
  • execute a command
2 : to do what is provided or required by
  • execute a decree
3 : to put to death especially in compliance with a legal sentence
4 : to make or produce (something, such as a work of art) especially by carrying out a design
5 : to perform what is required to give validity to
  • execute a deed
6 : play
  • execute a piece of music
1 : to perform properly or skillfully the fundamentals of a sport or of a particular play
  • never had a team execute better
  • —Bobby Knight
2 : to perform indicated tasks according to encoded instructions used of a computer program or routine


play \ˈek-si-ˌkyü-tə-bəl\ adjective

Examples of execute in a Sentence

  1. He was captured, tried, and executed for murder.

  2. They carefully executed the plan.

  3. The pilot executed an emergency landing.

  4. The quarterback executed the play perfectly.

  5. execute the provisions of the will

Recent Examples of execute from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'execute.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of execute

Middle English, from Anglo-French executer, from execucion execution

Synonym Discussion of execute

kill, slay, murder, assassinate, dispatch, execute mean to deprive of life. kill merely states the fact of death caused by an agency in any manner.
    • killed in an accident
    • frost killed the plants
slay is a chiefly literary term implying deliberateness and violence but not necessarily motive.
    • slew thousands of the Philistines
murder specifically implies stealth and motive and premeditation and therefore full moral responsibility.
    • convicted of murdering a rival
assassinate applies to deliberate killing openly or secretly often for political motives.
    • terrorists assassinated the Senator
dispatch stresses quickness and directness in putting to death.
    • dispatched the sentry with one bullet
execute stresses putting to death as a legal penalty.
    • executed by lethal gas
perform, execute, discharge, accomplish, achieve, effect, fulfill mean to carry out or into effect. perform implies action that follows established patterns or procedures or fulfills agreed-upon requirements and often connotes special skill.
    • performed gymnastics
execute stresses the carrying out of what exists in plan or in intent.
    • executed the hit-and-run
discharge implies execution and completion of appointed duties or tasks.
    • discharged his duties
accomplish stresses the successful completion of a process rather than the means of carrying it out.
    • accomplished everything they set out to do
achieve adds to accomplish the implication of conquered difficulties.
    • achieve greatness
effect adds to achieve an emphasis on the inherent force in the agent capable of surmounting obstacles.
    • effected sweeping reforms
fulfill implies a complete realization of ends or possibilities.
    • fulfilled their ambitions

EXECUTE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of execute for English Language Learners

  • : to kill (someone) especially as punishment for a crime

  • : to do (something that you have planned to do or been told to do)

  • : to do or perform (an action or movement that requires skill)

EXECUTE Defined for Kids


verb ex·e·cute \ ˈek-sə-ˌkyüt \

Definition of execute for Students

executed; executing
1 : to kill according to a legal order
2 : to put into effect : perform or carry out
  • execute a plan
3 : to make according to a design
  • The painting was executed in bright colors.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ex·e·cute \ ˈek-si-ˌkyüt \

legal Definition of execute

executed; executing
1 : perform: as
a : to carry out fully
  • includes not only executed violence, but also threatened violence
  • Louisiana Civil Code
b : to do what is provided or required by
  • execute a contract
  • execute a search warrant
c : to deem (a use in property) to confer full seisin in a cestui que use by operation of the Statute of Uses
2 : to perform what is required to give validity to; especially : to complete (as by signing and delivering) in proper form
  • execute a note
  • execute a deed
3 : to put to death in compliance with a judicial death sentence

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to beat or defeat soundly

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