kill merely states the fact of death caused by an agency in any manner.
killed in an accident
frost killed the plants
slay is a chiefly literary term implying deliberateness and violence but not necessarily motive.
slew thousands of the Philistines
murder specifically implies stealth and motive and premeditation and therefore full moral responsibility.
convicted of murdering a rival
assassinate applies to deliberate killing openly or secretly often for political motives.
terrorists assassinated the Senator
dispatch stresses quickness and directness in putting to death.
dispatched the sentry with one bullet
execute stresses putting to death as a legal penalty.
executed by lethal gas
The knight slew the dragon.
millions have been slain worldwide by this dreadful disease
Recent Examples on the WebThe athlete continued to slay her pandemic style with Cordae by her side.—Diane J. Cho, Peoplemag, 11 Jan. 2023 Last season saw the aversion of the first crisis but what's summer without a sequel and the second crisis is here to slay.—Lester Fabian Brathwaite, EW.com, 4 Jan. 2023 Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended in 2003, but Sarah Michelle Gellar continues to slay.—Good Housekeeping Editors, Good Housekeeping, 2 Jan. 2023 For the first time ever, the finale featured all women in its lineup — the Harp and the Lambs — and these ladies came to slay.—Lauren Huff, EW.com, 1 Dec. 2022 Fortunately, Germany finds itself in the other, where there may even be a kindly last 16 draw, a chance of a quarterfinal, an opportunity to slay ghosts and, perhaps, seek glory.—Rory Smith, New York Times, 27 Nov. 2022 The following year, Clooney teamed up with Game of Thrones's Natalie Dormer, to slay a dragon before walking off the film set to get a coffee in real-life New York City.—Julia Moore, Peoplemag, 15 Nov. 2022 Every spooky season, celebrities come to slay with their costumes.—Christian Allaire, Vogue, 27 Oct. 2022 On that summer night in London, Princess Diana came to slay.—Dina Gachman, Glamour, 17 Nov. 2022 See More
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'slay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Middle English slen, from Old English slēan to strike, slay; akin to Old High German slahan to strike, Middle Irish slachta stricken
First Known Use
before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1
The first known use of slay was
before the 12th century