[hek-uh-tohm, -toom]


(in ancient Greece and Rome) a public sacrifice of 100 oxen to the gods.
any great slaughter: the hecatombs of modern wars.

Origin of hecatomb

1585–95; < Latin hecatombē < Greek hekatómbē < *hekatombwā, equivalent to hékaton one hundred + *-bwā, taken to be a derivative of boûs ox (see cow1)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hecatomb

Historical Examples of hecatomb

  • He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a hecatomb for the god.

  • The hunter turns faint, sick, as he contemplates this hecatomb of corpses.

    The Death Shot

    Mayne Reid

  • They would first make a hecatomb of their hated foes, and then fall upon it.

    The Lone Ranche

    Captain Mayne Reid

  • Make a hecatomb of the present Hamleys all at once, while you are about it.

    Wives and Daughters

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

  • Pile up, high as heaven, your hecatomb of victims, offered to the God of love.

    The Spanish Brothers

    Deborah Alcock

British Dictionary definitions for hecatomb



(in ancient Greece or Rome) any great public sacrifice and feast, originally one in which 100 oxen were sacrificed
a great sacrifice

Word Origin for hecatomb

C16: from Latin hecatombē, from Greek hekatombē, from hekaton hundred + bous ox
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 hecatomb

1590s, from Greek hekatombe "offering of 100 oxen," but generally "a great public sacrifice," from hekaton "one hundred" (perhaps from hen, neuter of eis "one" + *katon "hundred") + bous "ox." The first month of the Attic calendar (corresponding to July-August) was Hekatombaion, in which sacrifices were made.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper