Definition of decimate in English:

decimate

Line breaks: deci|mate
Pronunciation: /ˈdɛsɪmeɪt
 
/

verb

[with object]
1Kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of: the inhabitants of the country had been decimated
More example sentences
  • A University of Sydney researcher is claiming up to a third of our snake species could be decimated.
  • The idea grew out of an effort to save highly endangered Micronesian kingfishers in Guam, where many bird species had been decimated by a brown snake invasion.
  • Prior to 1990 the species had been decimated by a combination of habitat loss and capture of birds for the pet trade, and was considered extinct in the wild.
1.1Drastically reduce the strength or effectiveness of (something): public transport has been decimated
More example sentences
  • How can any honest American still follow this clown, he has decimated the economy and strength of our country, every American should be outraged
  • Fiscal infrastructure decimated by the effects of war.
  • The fear of the virus has decimated the tourist trade to South East Asia, with Singapore bearing the brunt of the cancellations.
2 historical Kill one in every ten of (a group of people, originally a mutinous Roman legion) as a punishment for the whole group: the man who is to determine whether it be necessary to decimate a large body of mutineers
More example sentences
  • Augustus firmly imposed his discipline on his men: he once dismissed an entire legion in disgrace, and didn't hesitate to decimate troops who would give in to the enemy.

Origin

late Middle English: from Latin decimat- 'taken as a tenth', from the verb decimare, from decimus 'tenth'. In Middle English the term decimation denoted the levying of a tithe, and later the tax imposed by Cromwell on the Royalists (1655).

Usage

Historically, the meaning of the word decimate is ‘kill one in every ten of (a group of people)’. This sense has been more or less totally superseded by the later, more general sense ‘kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of’, as in the virus has decimated the population. Some traditionalists argue that this is incorrect, but it is clear that it is now part of standard English.

Derivatives

decimation

Pronunciation: /-ˈmeɪʃ(ə)n/
noun
More example sentences
  • For entire units that did not do their duty in battle, there was the judgment of decimation - the execution of every tenth man until all were gone or the punishment was suspended.
  • Surely all existing sites must be occupied before the planners even contemplate any further decimation of the green belt.
  • All the hand-wringing last week about Ireland's lack of competitiveness and the decimation of the country's industrial base reinforces the need for a dynamic tourism department.

decimator

noun

Definition of decimate in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day antebellum
Pronunciation: ˌantɪˈbɛləm
adjective
occurring or existing before a particular war…