: a machine for beheading by means of a heavy blade that slides down in vertical guides
: a shearing machine or instrument (such as a paper cutter) that in action resembles a guillotine
The paper was trimmed on a guillotine.
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
guillotine transitive verb

Examples of guillotine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web During the worst violence of the French Revolution, Joséphine was arbitrarily arrested and condemned, and lived with the constant threat of death by guillotine any day. Anne Higonnet, Vogue, 17 Nov. 2023 Certain wandered between rows of mannequins fettered with leg irons, claustrophobic dungeon cells and a towering guillotine. Jeremy Redmon, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Oct. 2023 As the final seconds ticked, Danis attempted to put Paul into a guillotine chokehold. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, 15 Oct. 2023 Duly horrified by the French Revolution, though not too horrified to lick the blood from Marie Antoinette’s guillotine, the young man soon stages his untimely demise. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 One of the sites of a guillotine during the French Revolution was now a fan zone, with four vast screens provided to watch France take on mighty New Zealand, three-time Cup winners. Victor Mather, New York Times, 21 Sep. 2023 With a potential billion-dollar guillotine hanging over its neck, the house of Wildenstein is in unprecedented peril. Rachel Corbett, New York Times, 23 Aug. 2023 The initial answers provide no shortage of grim amusement, especially when a young Pinochet witnesses the French Revolution and proceeds to learn all the wrong lessons from it (though not before licking the blade of Marie Antoinette’s guillotine). Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 1 Sep. 2023 Of course Alice Cooper’s Zoom profile picture is of a guillotine. Vulture, 25 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'guillotine.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, from Joseph Guillotin †1814 French physician

First Known Use

1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of guillotine was in 1790

Dictionary Entries Near guillotine

Cite this Entry

“Guillotine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guillotine. Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


guil·​lo·​tine ˈgil-ə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio) ˌgē-(y)ə-ˈtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio)
: a machine for cutting off a person's head by means of a heavy blade sliding in two upright grooved posts
guillotine verb

named for Joseph Guillotin 1738–1814 French doctor and public official

Medical Definition


guil·​lo·​tine ˈgil-ə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio) ˈgē-ə-ˌtēn How to pronounce guillotine (audio)
: 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
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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