guil·​lo·​tine | \ ˈgi-lə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio) ; ˌgē-(y)ə-ˈtēn, ˈgē-(y)ə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio) \

Definition of guillotine

1 : a machine for beheading by means of a heavy blade that slides down in vertical guides
2 : a shearing machine or instrument (such as a paper cutter) that in action resembles a guillotine The paper was trimmed on a guillotine.
3 chiefly British : closure by the imposition of a predetermined time limit on the consideration of specific sections of a bill or portions of other legislative business

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Other Words from guillotine

guillotine transitive verb

Examples of guillotine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Comments considered in violation included jokes around historically violent left-wing populist revolutions, like who goes to the guillotine first. Nellie Bowles, New York Times, "The Pied Pipers of the Dirtbag Left Want to Lead Everyone to Bernie Sanders," 11 Mar. 2020 The French may have resolved some of their eighteenth-century economic injustices with the guillotine, but in many other countries across Europe the ruling classes retained power until they were dislodged by the turmoil of the First World War. Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker, "The Ultra-Wealthy Who Argue That They Should Be Paying Higher Taxes," 30 Dec. 2019 Perhaps the middle of a crisis isn’t the best time to haul out the guillotine, but the officials responsible for the testing debacle in the U.S. deserve to be sent to one forthwith. Nr Editors, National Review, "The Week," 2 Apr. 2020 Keep it safe with this bagel guillotine that'll give you a swift, even slice. Billy Cadden, Popular Science, "The best kitchen tools to seriously improve your cooking," 19 Aug. 2019 Fictional newspaper clippings by the artist Rose Salane are each framed alongside a small object, like a button or a cigar guillotine, relevant to the story. Will Heinrich, New York Times, "A Striking Balance of New and Rediscovered at the Independent Fair," 5 Mar. 2020 What drives a dazzling academic—the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics, no less—to turn his New York Times column into an undiscriminating guillotine for conservative foes? Sebastian Mallaby, The Atlantic, "Cool It, Krugman," 5 Feb. 2020 There are three forms of declawing: through a guillotine clipper that slips over the entire first part of the toe, a scalpel blade and a laser. Marissa Plescia,, "Declawing surgeries can lead to destructive behavior in cats, some say; more efforts to ban practice urged," 25 Oct. 2019 Four years have passed since Louis XVI, the French king who sent ships and soldiers to support the American Revolution, went to the guillotine and his country, now a republic, went back to war against the United States' old colonial overlord. CBS News, "Book excerpt: "Washington's End," on the final years of the father of our country," 21 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'guillotine.' 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 guillotine

1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for guillotine

French, from Joseph Guillotin †1814 French physician

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Time Traveler for guillotine

Time Traveler

The first known use of guillotine was in 1790

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Statistics for guillotine

Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Guillotine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for guillotine


How to pronounce guillotine (audio) How to pronounce guillotine (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of guillotine

: a machine with a heavy blade that was used in the past to cut off the heads of people who had been sentenced to death


guil·​lo·​tine | \ ˈgi-lə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio) \

Kids Definition of guillotine

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a machine for cutting off a person's head with a heavy blade that slides down two grooved posts


guillotined; guillotining

Kids Definition of guillotine (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cut off a person's head with a guillotine


guil·​lo·​tine | \ ˈgil-ə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio) , ˈgē-ə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio) \

Medical Definition of guillotine

: a surgical instrument that consists of a ring and handle with a knife blade which slides down the handle and across the ring and that is used for cutting out a protruding structure (as a tonsil) capable of being placed in the ring

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