[ des-uh-meyt ]
/ ˈdɛs əˌmeɪt /
verb (used with object), dec·i·mat·ed, dec·i·mat·ing.
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.
Words nearby decimate
Origin of decimate
OTHER WORDS FROM decimatedec·i·ma·tion, noundec·i·ma·tor, noun
WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH decimatedecimal decimatedecimate destroy (see usage note at the current entry)
usage note for decimate
The earliest English sense of decimate is “to select by lot and execute every tenth soldier of (a unit).” The extended sense “destroy a great number or proportion of” developed in the 19th century: Cholera decimated the urban population. Because the etymological sense of one-tenth remains to some extent, decimate is not ordinarily used with exact fractions or percentages: Drought has destroyed (not decimated ) nearly 80 percent of the cattle.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020
British Dictionary definitions for decimator
/ (ˈdɛsɪˌmeɪt) /
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)
Derived forms of decimatedecimation, noundecimator, noun
Word Origin for decimate
C17: from Latin decimāre, from decimus tenth, from decem ten
usage for decimate
One talks about the whole of something being decimated, not a part: disease decimated the population, not disease decimated most of the population
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