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 Marie Antoinette doused herself in her favorite perfume before she was ushered to the guillotine. Beatriz Zimmermann, Town & Country, "The Soothing Power of Scent," 27 Apr. 2021 The debate over building a guillotine or gallows ultimately got resolved in favor of a gallows, which commenters estimated could be built for as little as $200 in supplies. Washington Post, "Gallows or guillotines? The chilling debate on before the Capitol siege.," 15 Apr. 2021 On the first page we are introduced to the vivacious Olympe de Gouges, who was brought to the Paris guillotine in November 1793. Washington Post, "Meet the forgotten rebels and quiet revolutionaries of women’s history," 5 Mar. 2021 Foucault tells us that instead of a punishment of the body, like a hanging or a guillotine in the town square, prison today is interested in punishing the soul. Teddy Mcdarrah, Forbes, "Don’t Let Your Job Stop You From Having A Career: Lessons From Russell And Foucault," 24 Feb. 2021 In science, theories are routinely subjected to the guillotine of experiments. Avi Loeb, Scientific American, "Experimental Tests of Theology," 26 Jan. 2021 Welcome to the era where the screen is king, and analog buttons are facing the guillotine. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "Screens in cars are getting even bigger? Is it safe?," 15 Jan. 2021 The doctors performed a guillotine amputation, just below the knee. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, "The Plague Year," 28 Dec. 2020 France last conducted an execution by guillotine in 1977, four years before banning capital punishment. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Texas GOP official suggests guillotine for Mitt Romney but calls it bad metaphor, not a call for beheading," 3 Jan. 2021

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

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Guillotine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for guillotine



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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