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See more synonyms for headhunting on Thesaurus.com
  1. (among certain primitive peoples) the practice of hunting down and decapitating victims and preserving their heads as trophies.
  2. the act or practice of actively searching for new employees, especially for professionals or executives: Every June the electronics manufacturers go headhunting among the newly graduated engineers.
  3. the act or practice of firing without cause, especially someone disliked: Their periodic headhunting was a contributing factor in the company's failures.
  4. the act or practice of trying to destroy the power, position, or influence of one's competitors or foes: Headhunting is ferocious in advertising.
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Origin of headhunting

First recorded in 1850–55; head + hunting


  1. a headhunting expedition: The men left the village to go on a headhunt.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to engage in headhunting.
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Origin of headhunt

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for head-hunting

Historical Examples

  • In 1896 there were about 100,000 head-hunting Igorrotes in the Benguet district.

    The Philippine Islands

    John Foreman

  • At this time the atrocious custom of head-hunting prevailed in the island.

  • From all that I could learn, head-hunting is a sport, like fox-hunting in England.

  • The practice of head-hunting was also dealt with by James Brooke.

    Children of Borneo

    Edwin Herbert Gomes

  • He is a black Napoleon, a head-hunting, man-eating Talleyrand.

    A Son Of The Sun

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for head-hunting


  1. the practice among certain peoples of removing the heads of slain enemies and preserving them as trophies
  2. the recruitment, esp through an agency, of executives from one company to another, often rival, company
  3. US slang the destruction or neutralization of political opponents
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Derived Formshead-hunter, noun
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