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

Examples of slay in a Sentence

The knight slew the dragon. millions have been slain worldwide by this dreadful disease
Recent Examples on the Web Alyssa Jane Venable, 23, was arrested on Thursday in New York State, a day after her roommates were found slain in their Fredericksburg, Va., home, the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office said in a statement later that day. Samira Asma-Sadeque, Peoplemag, 7 June 2024 Indeed, at least 36 candidates have been slain during the current electoral cycle. Matt Williams, The Conversation, 31 May 2024 As the event unfolds, a waitress whose daughter was slain in the tragedy recognizes the bridegroom as the brother of the shooter. Georgia Rowe, The Mercury News, 28 May 2024 In King’s assassination, Spitz and two other forensic pathologists likewise agreed with the original assessment of authorities that the civil rights leader was slain by a single shot from a high-velocity rifle. Trip Gabriel, Baltimore Sun, 7 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for slay 

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

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 17 Jun. 2024.

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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