[gil-uh-teen, gee-uh-; verb gil-uh-teen, gee-uh-]
See more synonyms for guillotine on
  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.
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.

Origin of guillotine

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

Related Words for guillotine

lop, behead, execute

Examples from the Web for guillotine

Contemporary Examples of guillotine

Historical Examples of guillotine

British Dictionary definitions for 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
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
Derived Formsguillotiner, noun

Word Origin for guillotine

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

"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

guillotine in Medicine


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

guillotine in Culture


[(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.

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.