View synonyms for slay


[ sley ]

verb (used with object)

slew or slayed slayingslain
  1. to kill by violence:

    In this game, your goal is to slay the evil dragon and take his hoard.

    Synonyms: assassinate, butcher, massacre, slaughter, murder

  2. to destroy; extinguish:

    Together we are slaying our self-doubt and working towards our dreams.

    Synonyms: ruin, annihilate

  3. Slang.
    1. to impress strongly and favorably; overwhelm, especially by humor:

      Your jokes slay me.

    2. to make a strong favorable impression with:

      She really slayed her performance last night.

  4. Obsolete. to strike.

verb (used without object)

slew or slayed slainslaying
  1. to kill or murder.
  2. Slang. to have a strong favorable effect; to be remarkably impressive:

    His whole album slays.


/ sleɪ /


  1. archaic.
    to kill, esp violently
  2. slang.
    to impress (someone) sexually
  3. obsolete.
    to strike
“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

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Derived Forms

  • ˈslayer, noun
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Other Words From

  • slay·a·ble adjective
  • slay·er noun
  • un·slay·a·ble adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of slay1

First recorded before 900; Middle English sleen, slayn, Old English slēan; cognate with Dutch slaan, German schlagen, Old Norse slā, Gothic slahan “to strike, beat”
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Word History and Origins

Origin of slay1

Old English slēan; related to Old Norse slā, Gothic, Old High German slahan to strike, Old Irish slacaim I beat
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Idioms and Phrases

  1. slay the day, to have a good or successful day:

    I woke up refreshed and ready to slay the day.

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Example Sentences

Somewhere in this emerald whirlpool that looks like pixelated glass but feels like a cloud, I hope to find and slay my demons.

Orbitz first worked with Thrillist in December as a sponsor — with a mid-six-figure deal — for the brand’s Slay Ride, a new annual drag brunch that premiered as a virtual event last year.

From Digiday

E-bikes can slay those hills, and cruise at 20 miles an hour or faster on level ground.

Intrepid adventurers grind out currency to purchase enchanted armaments from their local outfitters, and delve into dungeons to slay wolves, scorpions and killer robots.

Partially or fully wiping out federal student loan debt would be a godsend to many Americans but not be enough to slay the fund-eating dragon that has become a many-headed hydra.

“It brings me little joy to approach anyone and slay them,” he said.

Their initiation is to slay an infant in front of its mother in order to remove any semblance of humanity or emotion.

But because these tax cuts have powerful, well-connected constituencies, it has been difficult to slay them.

It was only a matter of time before these two enormous egos would clash—and try to slay each other.

Even when she's forced to slay a dragon, she's on autopilot, going through the motions.

On land and in sea the animal creation chase and maim, and slay and devour each other.

So we were wroth and made to slay the other baas, but he shot us down with a fire stick and returned to his own country in haste.

Her tragic attitude, her wondrous beauty, awed the men, and they lowered the guns that had been raised to slay the father.

And they shall bring upon thee a multitude, and they shall stone thee with stones, and shall slay thee with their swords.

Wilt thou yet say before them that slay thee: I am God; whereas thou art a man, and not God, in the hand of them that slay thee?


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About This Word

What else does slay mean?

Slay can mean “to kill a person or animal,” “to make someone laugh,” “to have sex with someone,” or “to do something spectacularly well,” especially when it comes to fashion, artistic performance, or self-confidence.

Where did the term slay come from?

Slay is an old word with Germanic roots that’s found in early Old English, but it was generally reserved for killing mythical beasts and vanquishing enemies on the battlefield.

Fast forward to the 1920s, the age of jazz, flappers, and some serious slang. To slay someone in the Roaring Twenties meant “to make someone laugh very hard,” commonly expressed as You slay me!

There’s some evidence that slay emerged as slang for “looking attractively fashionable” in the 1800s. But in Black, Latinx, queer ball culture in the 1970–80s, slaying definitely came to refer to when an outfit, hair, makeup, dance moves, and attitude were all flawless. It’s a metaphor: One is “killing it” with their stunning self and style.

Slay spread in the intersectional worlds of gay culture, fashion, and the drag scene. It was heavily featured in 1991 in the influential New York drag documentary Paris Is Burning. When RuPaul’s Drag Race brought drag culture into millions of living rooms starting in 2009, slay got a massive signal boost.

In 2016, Beyoncé took slay mainstream. She commanded her ladies to get in formation and slay. The ladies of the world answered with another term originated by queer ball culture: Yas, queen! Slay had slain, crossing over into (though some would say being appropriated by) non-queer Black and feminist spheres.

In an interesting twist, slay queen has become slang for a vain, vapid, gold-digging woman in Kenya.

How to use the term slay

While an old word, slay, for “kill,” has not fallen out of use. Buffy the Vampire Slayer literally and figuratively slew on TV in the 1990s as did the character Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, on Game of Thrones in the 2000s. The metal band Slayer have been slaying their guitar since 1981.

As for the slang slay, it’s especially found in gay and Black female culture. It can be used whenever a person looks self-confidently good, acts in a self-empowered way, or does or achieves something spectacular, especially in the face of some challenge. It’s often issued as an exclamation: Slay! That is, Do it!, You got this!, Right on! While the formal past tense of slay is slew, the slang past tense tends to be slayed.

As with a lot of contemporary slang rapidly popularized on social media, slay has been the inspiration of cultural products, from makeup like Slay All Day to books, like Constance C.R. White’s 2018 How to Slay: Inspiration from the Queens and Kings of Black Style. Actress Nia Sioux released an anthem to slaying, “SLAY,” in 2015.

Slay has gone mainstream, but be mindful that it originated in Black, queer culture, which may see insensitive or glib uses of the term as appropriative.

More examples of slay:

“Because White concludes that at the heart of how we slay — whether wearing natural hair, sporting Kente cloth, choosing a baggier jean over a more fitted one, going makeup-free, or beating our faces within an inch of their lives — is authenticity. And without this realness, White says, it’s impossible to slay.”
—Elizabeth Wellington, The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

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