Definition of guillotine in English:


Pronunciation: /ˌɡɪləˈtiːn//ˈɡɪlətiːn/


  • 1A machine with a heavy blade sliding vertically in grooves, used for beheading people.

    • ‘The real possibility of a civil war loomed over the citizens of the Empire, like the shadow cast from the blade of a guillotine waiting to fall.’
    • ‘As we know, this emanation of virtue would in time cause Robespierre and his followers to lose their heads under the severe and inflexible blade of the guillotine.’
    • ‘A moment later there was a thud as Meghan struck the side of the guillotine, and the blade wobbled with a faint squealing sound.’
    • ‘Despite his every effort to persuade his judges of his innocence and that all he was doing was giving spiritual help to those in need he was condemned to death by beheading at the guillotine.’
    • ‘As a child, she had dreamed dreams of the Reign of Terror, of Louis XVI at the guillotine, and of the chaos and bloodshed of battle.’
    • ‘First, large heavy shards of glass can fall like guillotines, slicing off body parts.’
    • ‘Did she really want to cry and break just before the rusted, old, bloody blade of the guillotine dropped?’
    • ‘Brainwashed disciples play with eyelashes, file fingernails and draw intricate pictures of men beheaded on bloody guillotines.’
    • ‘Kuyper held Americans in high esteem because they had rejected the ‘modern philosophy’ of secularism, which he traced to the French Revolution and its guillotine.’
    • ‘When the guillotine dropped on King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, it might have been thought that France had abandoned all trappings of aristocracy.’
    • ‘Her wrists were bound together with rope, and so were her ankles, her neck open to the air and the world, and her entire body was in a guillotine, the blade lingering high above.’
    • ‘Members of Parliament did not want or pretend to be representative: the word ‘democracy’ conjured up in the minds of most of them the spectre of the French Revolution and the guillotine.’
    • ‘As well as providing enormous publicity for the guillotine, the French Revolution did a bang-up job of sorting out the various weights and measures used in France.’
    • ‘The king was beheaded on the guillotine on January 21, 1793.’
    • ‘A guillotine was consequently developed that could behead twenty-five persons at a time.’
    • ‘The media are the modern day equivalent of the old crones sitting with their knitting needles around the guillotine during the beheadings of the French Revolution.’
    • ‘She reached out towards her father struggling as the guillotine's blade sliced downwards.’
    • ‘Careening into the cobblestone street, the blade looked like a guillotine crashing down on its victim.’
    • ‘That revolutionary dawn proved less than auspicious after many Frenchmen died under the blade of the guillotine.’
    • ‘This was also the spot where more than 1000 aristocrats were executed at the guillotine during the French Revolution.’
    reduction, cut, cutback, decrease, lessening, diminution, retrenchment, shrinkage
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A device for cutting that incorporates a descending or sliding blade, used typically for cutting paper, card, or sheet metal.
      • ‘In addition, the ARP has supplied a host of library equipment, like guillotines, hand scanners, shelves, counters, date stamps and catalogue cards.’
      • ‘Deal 12 noble cards face-up in a row and put the cardboard guillotine at the start.’
      • ‘But witnesses said Banovi had been placing a wad of paper under the guillotine in preparation for cutting and a colleague apparently activated the blade before Banovi's hand was out the way.’
      • ‘Harry made British medical history in 1999 by becoming the first eight-finger replant after his hands were caught in a hydraulic paper guillotine.’
      • ‘When a large number of bricks must be cut, you might want to rent an electric power saw adapted with a masonry blade or a manual cutting machine called a guillotine.’
    2. 1.2A surgical instrument with a sliding blade used typically for the removal of the tonsils.
    3. 1.3British (in parliament) a procedure used to prevent delay in the discussion of a legislative bill by fixing times at which various parts of it must be voted on.
      • ‘The Government is resorting to the excessive use of parliamentary guillotines to quickly push through controversial legislation, according to Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg.’
      • ‘Discussion on the measure was severely curtailed, after the government set a 10 pm deadline, or guillotine, for voting on the legislation.’
      • ‘All week, the government was making frequent use of the parliamentary device known as the guillotine.’
      • ‘The fact that government used the guillotine during the committee stage certainly did not contribute to any intelligent cross-bench discussion.’
      • ‘Yet again we will see a bill referred to the Primary Production Committee, with a guillotine applied to it on the very day the Minister introduces it into the House.’
      • ‘Can we expect the use of the guillotine in parliamentary debates to be abandoned by this government allowing those debates as much time as they need?’


  • 1 Execute (someone) by guillotine.

    • ‘They want to guillotine these people without any evidence.’
    • ‘He spent his last night in the Conciergerie before he was taken away to be guillotined comforting a beautiful, young aristocratic girl, which we'd all like to do on our last night alive…’
    • ‘Not surprisingly, they were caught, tried and guillotined.’
    • ‘Only 6 people were guillotined in Paris in August, and only 40 more over the rest of the year.’
    • ‘It guillotined so many people because it was a way of cleansing and purifying France, imbuing her with Virtue.’
    • ‘I guess once they guillotined the king, ending over 1000 years of monarchy in Europe, the mob weren't likely to take any kind of authority very seriously after that.’
    • ‘However, some ten years later events in Europe had taken a serious turn; 1789 saw the beginning of the French Revolution and in 1793 King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were guillotined.’
    • ‘This was where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were guillotined, along with more than 2,000 others between 1793 and 1795.’
    • ‘Life in the French chateaux continued more or less unchanged by the French Revolution, during which only about twelve hundred members of the nobility were guillotined, leaving the vast majority lying low but alive.’
    • ‘Alexis' maternal grandfather, Malherbes, was guillotined, and his father Herve escaped with his life only because of the overthrow of Robespierre.’
    • ‘In 1943, a woman was guillotined for having carried out an abortion.’
    • ‘And boy, did he get guillotined as quickly as anything!’
    • ‘At the end of the opera, they are guillotined, the sound of their ‘Salve regina’ is extinguished voice by voice.’
    • ‘In the name of the Rights of Man, or under that banner, tens of thousands were imprisoned and at least seventeen thousand guillotined between 1792 and 1794 alone.’
    • ‘The count was finally guillotined (he nobly turned himself in when the revolutionaries made a hostage of his lawyer).’
    • ‘The large relief on the wall of the prison memorializes the Vietnamese revolutionaries who were tortured and guillotined by the French until their defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.’
    • ‘Just before he was guillotined he made a speech vowing that he would return from the dead to punish his captors.’
    • ‘Those who were guillotined were often from those groups of people on which the government wanted to publicly blame the counterrevolution, such as the clergy and the nobility.’
    • ‘The firebrand French lawyer Saint-Just called it a new idea on the earth, and tried to get it into people's heads by guillotining as many of them as possible - until he lost his own.’
    • ‘This was swiftly followed by the reign of terror in which almost 17,000 so-called opponents of the revolution were guillotined - ironically, most of them peasants.’
    put to death, carry out a sentence of death on, kill
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Cut (paper, card, etc.) with a guillotine.
    2. 1.2British (in parliament) end discussion by applying a guillotine to (a bill or debate).
      • ‘Later, there were angry exchanges in the house over the amount of time that had been allotted to a debate on the report last night, with opposition deputies saying the Government were intent on guillotining the debate.’
      • ‘Tempers flared as the Howard Government guillotined debate on the legislation, ultimately supported by 80 votes to 61.’
      • ‘Mr Costello said the minister was guillotining the bill tomorrow at committee stage and guillotining it again for the report and the final stage on Thursday.’
      • ‘The ACT party will most certainly not agree to have our debates guillotined just for question time.’
      • ‘Charles Clarke has also said at the start of the debate that it will be guillotined.’
      • ‘I always assumed that all those details in the budget are written into each year's Finance Bill and guillotined through parliament, but maybe I'm mistaken and he does in fact have arbitrary power.’
      • ‘To rule eight motions, dealing with the same subject matter, out of order is just guillotining debate.’
      • ‘The incident, which occurred during the Mayoral election period, was due to be discussed at the Borough Council meeting on Tuesday night but a drawn out debate on budgeting meant the issue was guillotined.’
      • ‘Dail records show that the proposal had not been reached when the Finance Bill was guillotined at committee stage in May 1983.’
      • ‘The controversial amendment to the Electoral Bill, banning opinion polls for seven days in the lead up to elections, was passed without debate or a vote when the Bill was guillotined in the Dáil yesterday.’
      • ‘He said as the vote on the measure was now almost certain to be put with a vote proposing that the debate on the Bill be guillotined, the Labour party would be voting against it.’
      • ‘A rushed Senate Committee and public hearings process has been designed by the Government to guillotine public debate so that these laws can be introduced on the same day as the Government's inflationary GST.’
      • ‘There are that number being guillotined as we are anxious to get them through.’


Late 18th century: from French, named after Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (1738–1814), the French physician who recommended its use for executions in 1789.