- to destroy a great number or proportion of: The population was decimated by a plague.
- to select by lot and kill every tenth person of.
- Obsolete. to take a tenth of or from.
Origin of decimate
Examples from the Web for decimate
And now, the plan is not only to decimate public-sector unions, but all unions—to deplete the money they can spend on politics.The Next Phase of the Koch Brothers’ War on Unions
Carl Deal and Tia Lessin
December 22, 2014
And, from the south, chronic wasting disease is poised to decimate the elk herds.What It Takes to Kill a Grizzly Bear
November 23, 2014
When we decimate the funding for hospital preparedness, we put ourselves in great peril.Ebola Panic Is Worse Than the Disease
October 9, 2014
Instead we must decimate the mid-level leadership ISIS relies on.Who the U.S. Should Really Hit in ISIS
Daniel Trombly, Yasir Abbas
September 23, 2014
One set of officials advocated for a campaign to decimate ISIS in both countries by striking ISIS targets across Syria.Why Obama Backed Off More ISIS Strikes: His Own Team Couldn’t Agree on a Syria Strategy
Josh Rogin, Eli Lake
August 29, 2014
You meant to let the royal blood, and to decimate the nobility of France.The Works of Honor de Balzac
Honor de Balzac
These are the dreaded wild dogs which decimate the game in the jungle.Life in an Indian Outpost
You wish to shed royal blood and to decimate the nobility of the kingdom, do you?Catherine de' Medici
Honore de Balzac
If he caught them on the steep ice between the two cedar clumps he could decimate them with ease.The Tree of Appomattox
Joseph A. Altsheler
Absolute principles create division, and inspire the temptation to decimate, to expel, to kill enemies.English Conferences of Ernest Renan
- to destroy or kill a large proportion ofa plague decimated the population
- (esp in the ancient Roman army) to kill every tenth man of (a mutinous section)
Word Origin and History for decimate
c.1600, in reference to the practice of punishing mutinous military units by capital execution of one in every 10, by lot; from Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare (see decimation). Killing one in ten, chosen by lots, from a rebellious city or a mutinous army was a common punishment in classical times. The word has been used (incorrectly, to the irritation of pedants) since 1660s for "destroy a large portion of." Related: Decimated; decimating.