Word of the Day: DECIMATE


verb \ˈde-sə-ˌmāt\

: to destroy a large number of (plants, animals, people, etc.)

: to severely damage or destroy a large part of (something)

dec·i·mat·ed  dec·i·mat·ing

Full Definition of DECIMATE

transitive verb
1:  to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
2:  to exact a tax of 10 percent from <poor as a decimated Cavalier — John Dryden>
3a :  to reduce drastically especially in number <cholera decimated the population>
 b :  to cause great destruction or harm to <firebombs decimated the city> <an industry decimated by recession>
dec·i·ma·tion noun

Examples of DECIMATE

  1. This kind of moth is responsible for decimating thousands of trees in our town.
  2. Budget cuts have decimated public services in small towns.

Origin of DECIMATE

Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem ten

First Known Use: 1660


The earliest English sense of decimate  is “to select by lot and execute every tenth soldier of (a unit).” The extended sense “destroy a great number or proportion of” developed in the 19th century: Cholera decimated the urban population.  Because the etymological sense of one-tenth remains to some extent, decimate  is not ordinarily used with exact fractions or percentages: Drought has destroyed  (not decimated ) nearly 80 percent of the cattle.



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