Word of the Day : May 7, 2018

decimate

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verb DESS-uh-mayt

Definition

1 : to select by lot and kill every tenth man of

2 : to exact a tax of 10 percent from

3 a : to reduce drastically especially in number

b : to cause great destruction or harm to

Did You Know?

The connection between decimate and the number ten harks back to a brutal practice of the army of ancient Rome. A unit that was guilty of a severe crime (such as mutiny) was punished by the selection and execution of one-tenth of its soldiers, thereby scaring the remaining nine-tenths into obedience. It's no surprise that the word for this practice came from Latin decem, meaning "ten." From this root we also get our words decimal and decade, as well as December, so named because it was originally the tenth month of the calendar before the addition of January and February. In its extended uses, decimate strayed from its "tenth" meaning and nowadays refers to the act of destroying or damaging a great quantity or large part of something.


Examples

Budget cuts have decimated public services in many towns and cities throughout the state.

"We must do everything we can to eliminate the diseases that have potential to decimate our population if we do not take action." — Kacie L. Pauls, The Kansas City (Missouri) Star, 22 Mar. 2018



Word Family Quiz

Fill in the blanks to complete a verb derived from Latin decem ("ten") that means "to intersect or cross": d _ _ u _ s _ te.

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