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

Other Words from guillotine

guillotine transitive verb

Examples of guillotine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Suser used his wrestling background to take Glossner to the ground and lock in a guillotine choke for the win 1:37 into the first round. Kevin Richardson, Baltimore Sun, 27 Mar. 2022 The capital markets have rewarded Musk richly for all of that; Twitter, home of the guillotine meme, has not — or at least not uniformly. New York Times, 26 Apr. 2022 His grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and his great-grandfather were beheaded in 1794, and Tocqueville’s parents, who had awaited the guillotine in the same prison, survived only because Robespierre fell and the executions stopped. Jedediah Britton-purdy, The New Republic, 22 Apr. 2022 The play’s razor-sharp edge is all the more cutting for being polished with easy wit, like tickling a captive before releasing the guillotine. Naveen Kumar, Variety, 17 Apr. 2022 This is maybe the same animal that visited this same trap one week ago, after Kielland wired the guillotine-style door open with bait inside. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Apr. 2022 David, who voted to send Louis XVI to the guillotine, both painted and perpetrated those great storms. Washington Post, 3 Mar. 2022 Below is a ranking of all of the fictional principalities thus far created by Netflix, listed in order of just how much their citizens need to invest in a guillotine (or to put it another way, ranked from least to most democratic). Amelia Tait, Wired, 24 Dec. 2021 Those elites have bullied and ostracized those with different values and have enforced their ideals, at various times in history, through the guillotine or through Twitter. Michael Washburn, National Review, 12 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of guillotine was in 1790

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Last Updated

24 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Guillotine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for guillotine


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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