slew ˈslü How to pronounce slay (audio) also especially in sense 2 slayed; slain ˈslān How to pronounce slay (audio) ; slaying; slays
transitive : to kill violently, wantonly, or in great numbers
slay the enemy
This was the appearance of a dreadful epidemic which in that age, and long before and afterward, was wont to slay its hundreds and thousands on both sides of the Atlantic.Nathaniel Hawthorne
broadly : to strike down : kill
slay a dragon
"It's a lot easier to slay a vampire with a stake in the heart than it is to slay some of our demons that are in our heads." Rachel T. Hill
transitive, informal : to delight or amuse immensely
slayed the audience
… [Seth Rogen] is currently slaying critics with Superbad, which he co-wrote with Evan Goldberg.Tanner Stransky
transitive + intransitive, informal : to do something or perform exceptionally well or impressively : to be exceptionally impressive
From the Let Girls Learn initiative to her Vogue covers, [Yara Shahidi] slays it all.Rebecca Sun
Beyoncé did not come to this year's Grammy Awards just to slay, she came to make a statement.Jackie Fields
From the red carpet to her sure-to-be epic performance, one thing is for certain—she's gonna slay.Quinn Keaney
slayer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for slay

kill, slay, murder, assassinate, dispatch, execute mean to deprive of life.

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

Example Sentences

The knight slew the dragon. millions have been slain worldwide by this dreadful disease
Recent Examples on the Web The 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,, 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,, 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.

Word History


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

Time Traveler
The first known use of slay was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near slay

Cite this Entry

“Slay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


slew ˈslü How to pronounce slay (audio) ; slain ˈslān How to pronounce slay (audio) ; slaying
: to put to death violently or in great numbers
slayer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on slay

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