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  1. the killing or butchering of cattle, sheep, etc., especially for food.
  2. the brutal or violent killing of a person.
  3. the killing of great numbers of people or animals indiscriminately; carnage: the slaughter of war.
verb (used with object)
  1. to kill or butcher (animals), especially for food.
  2. to kill in a brutal or violent manner.
  3. to slay in great numbers; massacre.
  4. Informal. to defeat thoroughly; trounce: They slaughtered our team.

Origin of slaughter

1250–1300; Middle English slaghter, slahter, slauther (noun) < Old Norse slātr, earlier slāttr, slahtr
Related formsslaugh·ter·er, nounslaugh·ter·ing·ly, adverbun·slaugh·tered, adjective

Synonyms for slaughter

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2. murder. 4–6. Slaughter, butcher, massacre all imply violent and bloody methods of killing. Slaughter and butcher, primarily referring to the killing of animals for food, are used also of the brutal or indiscriminate killing of human beings: to slaughter cattle; to butcher a hog. Massacre indicates a general slaughtering of helpless or unresisting victims: to massacre the peasants of a region. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for slaughtered


  1. the killing of animals, esp for food
  2. the savage killing of a person
  3. the indiscriminate or brutal killing of large numbers of people, as in war; massacre
  4. informal a resounding defeat
verb (tr)
  1. to kill (animals), esp for food
  2. to kill in a brutal manner
  3. to kill indiscriminately or in large numbers
  4. informal to defeat resoundingly
Derived Formsslaughterer, nounslaughterous, adjective

Word Origin for slaughter

Old English sleaht; related to Old Norse slāttar hammering, slātr butchered meat, Old High German slahta, Gothic slauhts, German Schlacht battle
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 slaughtered



c.1300, "killing of a cattle or sheep for food, killing of a person," from a Scandinavian *slahtr, akin to Old Norse slatr "a butchering, butcher meat," slatra "to slaughter," slattr "a mowing" from Proto-Germanic *slukhtis, related to Old Norse sla "to strike" (see slay (v.)) + formative suffix (cf. laugh/laughter). Meaning "killing of a large number of persons in battle" is attested from mid-14c. Old English had slieht "stroke, slaughter, murder, death; animals for slaughter;" cf. sliehtswyn "pig for killing."



1530s, "butcher an animal for market," from slaughter (n.). Meaning "slay wantonly, ruthlessly, or in great numbers" is from 1580s. Related: Slaughtered; slaughtering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with slaughtered


see like a lamb to the slaughter.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.