Definition of guillotine in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɡɪlətiːn/
Pronunciation: /ˌɡɪləˈtiːn/


Image of guillotine
1A machine with a heavy blade sliding vertically in grooves, used for beheading people.
Example sentences
  • The king was beheaded on the guillotine on January 21, 1793.
  • Despite his every effort to persuade his judges of his innocence and that all he was doing was giving spiritual help to those in need he was condemned to death by beheading at the guillotine.
  • Brainwashed disciples play with eyelashes, file fingernails and draw intricate pictures of men beheaded on bloody guillotines.
1.1A device for cutting that incorporates a descending or sliding blade, used typically for cutting paper, card, or sheet metal.
Example sentences
  • But witnesses said Banovi had been placing a wad of paper under the guillotine in preparation for cutting and a colleague apparently activated the blade before Banovi's hand was out the way.
  • Harry made British medical history in 1999 by becoming the first eight-finger replant after his hands were caught in a hydraulic paper guillotine.
  • When a large number of bricks must be cut, you might want to rent an electric power saw adapted with a masonry blade or a manual cutting machine called a guillotine.
1.2A surgical instrument with a sliding blade used typically for the removal of the tonsils.
1.3British (In parliament) a procedure used to prevent delay in the discussion of a legislative bill by fixing times at which various parts of it must be voted on.
Example sentences
  • The Government is resorting to the excessive use of parliamentary guillotines to quickly push through controversial legislation, according to Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg.
  • Can we expect the use of the guillotine in parliamentary debates to be abandoned by this government allowing those debates as much time as they need?
  • The fact that government used the guillotine during the committee stage certainly did not contribute to any intelligent cross-bench discussion.


[with object]
1Execute (someone) by guillotine.
Example sentences
  • Just before he was guillotined he made a speech vowing that he would return from the dead to punish his captors.
  • They want to guillotine these people without any evidence.
  • He spent his last night in the Conciergerie before he was taken away to be guillotined comforting a beautiful, young aristocratic girl, which we'd all like to do on our last night alive…
1.1Cut (paper, card, etc.) with a guillotine.
1.2British (In parliament) end discussion by applying a guillotine to (a bill or debate).
Example sentences
  • The controversial amendment to the Electoral Bill, banning opinion polls for seven days in the lead up to elections, was passed without debate or a vote when the Bill was guillotined in the Dáil yesterday.
  • Dail records show that the proposal had not been reached when the Finance Bill was guillotined at committee stage in May 1983.
  • I always assumed that all those details in the budget are written into each year's Finance Bill and guillotined through parliament, but maybe I'm mistaken and he does in fact have arbitrary power.


Late 18th century: from French, named after Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (1738–1814), the French physician who recommended its use for executions in 1789.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: guil¦lo|tine

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