1. the act or practice of letting blood by opening a vein; phlebotomy.
  2. bloodshed or slaughter.
  3. bloodbath.
  4. Informal. severe cutbacks or reduction in personnel, appropriations, etc.: The company went through a period of bloodletting in the 1970s.

Origin of bloodletting

First recorded in 1175–1225, bloodletting is from the Middle English word blod letunge. See blood, let1, -ing1
Related formsblood·let·ter, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for blood-letting

Contemporary Examples of blood-letting

Historical Examples of blood-letting

  • With regard to blood-letting the various orders had different customs.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • It was a political fever that had to be gone through with; and blood-letting was the only cure.

    Blood and Iron

    John Hubert Greusel

  • In any case, the dragoon was obviously plethoric and would be the better for a blood-letting.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

  • And sent Queeth's crowd in to do your blood-letting for you?


    Lester del Rey

  • He staggered back, and the blood-letting seemed to relieve his temper.

    Robert Orange

    John Oliver Hobbes

British Dictionary definitions for blood-letting


  1. the therapeutic removal of blood, as in relieving congestive heart failureSee also phlebotomy
  2. bloodshed, esp in a blood feud
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 blood-letting

also bloodletting, early 13c., blod letunge, from blood (n.) + let (v.). Hyphenated from 17c., one word from mid-19c. Old English had blodlæte "blood-letting."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

blood-letting in Medicine


  1. The therapeutic removal of blood, usually from a vein.
Related formsbloodlet′ter n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.