decimate VERB 1) kill or destroy a large proportion of. 2) drastically reduce the strength of.
DERIVATIVES decimation noun.
USAGE The earliest sense of decimate was ‘kill one in every ten of’, a reference to the ancient Roman practice of killing one in every ten of a group of soldiers as a collective punishment. This has been more or less totally superseded by the sense ‘kill or destroy a large proportion of’, although some traditionalists argue that this later sense is incorrect.
ORIGIN Latin decimare 'take as a tenth' .

English terms dictionary. 2015.

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  • Decimate — Dec i*mate, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Decimated}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Decimating}.] [L. decimatus, p. p. of decimare to decimate (in senses 1 & 2), fr. decimus tenth. See {Decimal}.] 1. To take the tenth part of; to tithe. Johnson. [1913 Webster] 2. To… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • decimate — has changed its meaning because the old one is no longer needed. Historically, decimate means ‘to kill one person in ten’, and had its origin in military punishments. As the need for this meaning diminished, a new one emerged, the now familiar… …   Modern English usage

  • decimate — index destroy (efface), diminish, disarm (divest of arms), eliminate (eradicate), lessen, minimize …   Law dictionary

  • decimate — c.1600, in reference to the practice of punishing mutinous military units by capital execution of one in every 10, by lot; from L. decimatus, pp. of decimare (see DECIMATION (Cf. decimation)). Killing one in ten, chosen by lots, from a rebellious …   Etymology dictionary

  • decimate — [v] destroy annihilate, butcher*, commit genocide, execute, exterminate, kill off, massacre, obliterate, slaughter, stamp out, wipe out; concept 252 …   New thesaurus

  • decimate — [des′ə māt΄] vt. decimated, decimating [< L decimatus, pp. of decimare < decem, TEN] 1. Obs. to select by lot and kill every tenth one of 2. to destroy or kill a large part of [famine decimated the population] 3. Obs. to take a tenth part… …   English World dictionary

  • decimate — [[t]de̱sɪmeɪt[/t]] decimates, decimating, decimated 1) VERB To decimate something such as a group of people or animals means to destroy a very large number of them. [V n] The pollution could decimate the river s thriving population of kingfishers …   English dictionary

  • decimate — decimation, n. decimator, n. /des euh mayt /, v.t., decimated, decimating. 1. to destroy a great number or proportion of: The population was decimated by a plague. 2. to select by lot and kill every tenth person of. 3. Obs. to take a tenth of or… …   Universalium

  • decimate — verb Decimate is used with these nouns as the subject: ↑injury Decimate is used with these nouns as the object: ↑army …   Collocations dictionary

  • decimate — UK [ˈdesɪmeɪt] / US [ˈdesɪˌmeɪt] verb [transitive] Word forms decimate : present tense I/you/we/they decimate he/she/it decimates present participle decimating past tense decimated past participle decimated to spoil or destroy something, for… …   English dictionary