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guillotine

[gil-uh-teen, gee-uh-; verb gil-uh-teen, gee-uh-]
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noun
  1. a device for beheading a person by means of a heavy blade that is dropped between two posts serving as guides: widely used during the French Revolution.
  2. an instrument for surgically removing the tonsils.
  3. any of various machines in which a vertical blade between two parallel uprights descends to cut or trim metal, stacks of paper, etc.
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verb (used with object), guil·lo·tined, guil·lo·tin·ing.
  1. to behead by the guillotine.
  2. to cut with or as if with a guillotine.
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Origin of guillotine

1785–95; named after J. I. Guillotin (1738–1814), French physician who urged its use
Related formsun·guil·lo·tined, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for guillotine

guillotine

noun (ˈɡɪləˌtiːn)
    1. a device for beheading persons, consisting of a weighted blade set between two upright posts
    2. the guillotineexecution by this instrument
  1. a device for cutting or trimming sheet material, such as paper or sheet metal, consisting of a blade inclined at a small angle that descends onto the sheet
  2. a surgical instrument for removing tonsils, growths in the throat, etc
  3. Also called: closure by compartment (in Parliament, etc) a form of closure under which a bill is divided into compartments, groups of which must be completely dealt with each day
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verb (ˌɡɪləˈtiːn) (tr)
  1. to behead (a person) by guillotine
  2. (in Parliament, etc) to limit debate on (a bill, motion, etc) by the guillotine
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Derived Formsguillotiner, noun

Word Origin

C18: from French, named after Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738–1814), French physician, who advocated its use in 1789
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for guillotine

n.

"The name of the machine in which the axe descends in grooves from a considerable height so that the stroke is certain and the head instantly severed from the body." ["Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure," January 1793], 1791, from French guillotine, named in recognition of French physician Joseph Guillotin (1738-1814), who as deputy to the National Assembly (1789) proposed, for humanitarian and efficiency reasons, that capital punishment be carried out by beheading quickly and cleanly on a machine, which was built in 1791 and first used the next year. The verb is first attested 1794. Related: Guillotined; guillotining.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

guillotine in Medicine

guillotine

(gĭlə-tēn′, gēə-)
n.
  1. A ring-shaped instrument with a sliding knifeblade running through it, used in cutting off an enlarged tonsil.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

guillotine in Culture

guillotine

[(gil-uh-teen, gee-uh-teen)]

A machine designed for beheading people quickly and with minimal pain. The guillotine, which used a large falling knife blade, was devised by a physician, Joseph Guillotin, during the French Revolution and was used as the official method of execution in France until the twentieth century.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.