guillotine

noun guil·lo·tine \ ˈgi-lə-ˌtēn ; ˌgē-(y)ə-ˈtēn , ˈgē-(y)ə-ˌtēn \

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

guillotine

transitive verb

Recent Examples of guillotine from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of guillotine

French, from Joseph Guillotin †1814 French physician

GUILLOTINE Defined for English Language Learners

guillotine

noun

Definition of guillotine for English Language Learners

  • : 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


GUILLOTINE Defined for Kids

1

guillotine

noun guil·lo·tine \ ˈgi-lə-ˌtēn \

Definition of guillotine for Students

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

2

guillotine

verb

Definition of guillotine for Students

guillotined; guillotining
:to cut off a person's head with a guillotine

Medical Dictionary

guillotine

noun guil·lo·tine \ ˈgil-ə-ˌtēn , ˈgē-ə-ˌtēn \

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

Biographical Note for guillotine

  • Guillotin play \gē-yȯ-taⁿ\, Joseph–Ignace (1738–1814), French surgeon. Guillotin was a member of the National Assembly during the time of the French Revolution. In 1789 he proposed the passage of a law requiring that all death sentences be carried out by decapitation, a practice up to that time reserved for the nobility. At the time decapitation was perceived to be a humane method of execution, and its uniform application was intended as a statement of egalitarian ideals. Various decapitation devices had been in use for centuries, but an improvement was commissioned, and subsequently introduced in 1792. Gradually the device became known as the guillotine as it became associated with the man who had advocated it as a humane instrument of capital punishment. The surgical instrument known as the guillotine is so called because it features a similar sliding-blade action.


  • Seen and Heard

    What made you want to look up guillotine? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

    Love words? Need even more definitions?

    Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

    WORD OF THE DAY

    readily predictable

    Get Word of the Day daily email!

    Test Your Vocabulary

    The Exceptions Quiz III

    • one-green-toy-robot-amidst-many-red-toy-robots
    • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
    Spell It

    Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

    TAKE THE QUIZ
    Word Winder's CrossWinder

    Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

    TAKE THE QUIZ

    Love words? Need even more definitions?

    Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!