verb (used with object), de·cap·i·tat·ed, de·cap·i·tat·ing.

to cut off the head of; behead: Many people were decapitated during the French Revolution.

Origin of decapitate

1605–15; < Late Latin dēcapitātus, past participle of dēcapitāre, equivalent to dē- de- + capit- (stem of caput) head + -ātus -ate1
Related formsde·cap·i·ta·tion, nounde·cap·i·ta·tor, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for decapitation

Contemporary Examples of decapitation

Historical Examples of decapitation

  • Sometimes, in cases of capital punishment, decapitation was performed by degrees!

    The Pirate City

    R.M. Ballantyne

  • It is true this might be done physically after decapitation, but it could not be done morally.

    The Monikins

    J. Fenimore Cooper

  • The manner of it was decapitation, the instrument a mowing machine.

  • The price of contumacy was outlawry, and decapitation between the two columns.

  • The shocking custom of decapitation owes its origin to superstition.

    The Human Race

    Louis Figuier

British Dictionary definitions for decapitation



(tr) to behead
Derived Formsdecapitation, noundecapitator, noun

Word Origin for decapitate

C17: from Late Latin dēcapitāre, from Latin de- + caput head
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 decapitation

1640s, from French décapitation, from Medieval Latin decapitationem (nominative decapitatio), noun of action from past participle stem of Late Latin decapitare (see decapitate).



1610s, from French décapiter (14c.), from Late Latin decapitatus past participle of decapitare, from Latin de- "off" (see de-) + caput (genitive capitis) "head" (see capitulum). Related: Decapitated; decapitating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

decapitation in Medicine




The removal of a head, as of an animal, a fetus, or a bone.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.