Definition of decimate in English:

decimate

verb

[WITH OBJECT]
  • 1Kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of.

    ‘the project would decimate the fragile wetland wilderness’
    ‘the American chestnut, a species decimated by blight’
    • ‘Populations of these invertebrates have been decimated or even eradicated in areas where wasps are common.’
    • ‘Native clam populations in the Great Lakes have been decimated, and other species that compete for food with the mussels are in sharp decline.’
    • ‘Yet both dam projects would decimate the very scrubland the lynx depends on.’
    • ‘The idea grew out of an effort to save highly endangered Micronesian kingfishers in Guam, where many bird species had been decimated by a brown snake invasion.’
    • ‘A huge Scots army was decimated, thousands killed, enslaved, or exiled.’
    • ‘Encroachment by farmers and livestock was already decimating the park's wildlife.’
    • ‘A University of Sydney researcher is claiming up to a third of our snake species could be decimated.’
    • ‘Prior to 1990 the species had been decimated by a combination of habitat loss and capture of birds for the pet trade, and was considered extinct in the wild.’
    • ‘Thousands of bee swarms in the central Eastern Cape have been decimated by a deadly blood-sucking Asian mite which destroys the male drone bees and damages female worker bees.’
    • ‘At the same time some of the native species that were decimated by the Nile Perch, or were even thought extinct, were coming back.’
    • ‘The fishing fleet may have been decimated, and the pits and shipyards may have been replaced by air-conditioned call centres, but Britain's industrial heritage lives on in song.’
    • ‘Fields are still small, there are no huge modern sheds and the pastures are rich in species that would otherwise have been decimated by modern farming methods.’
    • ‘Those groups are the remnants of populations that were decimated by whalers and other seafarers who killed the creatures for food.’
    • ‘Extensive wetlands in Sonora have been decimated by irrigated agriculture and urbanization.’
    • ‘The big fleet in Thailand was decimated in a fire at the Royal Varuna Club several years ago, though there are still a few ‘vintage’ boats at Varuna.’
    • ‘Of course, if a walker happened to stumble on the nest of one of the few remaining pairs of a species which has been decimated by farming practices, damage could result.’
    • ‘The plague decimated the working population of Europe, and this left large tracts of land vacant.’
    • ‘A lot of the bird species here, particularly the migratory waders, have been decimated.’
    • ‘Trees are hard to kill, but their populations can be decimated by the same types of parasitic or bacterial plagues that can destroy human populations.’
    • ‘Scotland's fishing fleet has been decimated and the rest of us were as powerless as the Scottish Minister for Fishing.’
    get rid of, eliminate, do away with, remove, suppress
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Drastically reduce the strength or effectiveness of (something)
      ‘plant viruses that can decimate yields’
      • ‘Donegal's once vibrant textile industry has been decimated in the past decade with the closure of companies like Jockey, Donegal Shirts and Fingal Manufacturing.’
      • ‘In the early 1890s, a series of brutal winters decimated the cattle industry.’
      • ‘Only last month the government announced the biggest spending cuts in more than a decade that will decimate the public services on which thousands rely.’
      • ‘The fear of the virus has decimated the tourist trade to South East Asia, with Singapore bearing the brunt of the cancellations.’
      • ‘In reality, the effects of privatisation and subcontracting in community care has decimated the true potential of people that need support in the community.’
      • ‘Furthermore, anyone leaving the society would also get back only the minimum they were due, which means they would lose discretionary final bonuses, decimating the value of many investors' pension pots.’
      • ‘Traders claiming their businesses have been decimated by a controversial bus lane were due to hold an emergency public meeting with Transport for London last night.’
      • ‘How can any honest American still follow this clown, he has decimated the economy and strength of our country, every American should be outraged’
      • ‘Film producers have warned that the Government risks decimating the home-grown industry if it scraps tax breaks for movie-makers.’
      • ‘I didn't see these self same people out on the pickets when the mining industry was decimated, neither were they there when the steel industry collapsed.’
      • ‘Both agriculture and the province's small manufacturing industries were decimated during the civil war.’
      • ‘At the very least it could allow all 12 voluntary projects that have been decimated by these cuts more time to try and find alternative sources of funding or make appropriate plans.’
      • ‘Supermarkets all over the country have been lowering wages and decimating workers' health plans.’
      • ‘Fiscal infrastructure decimated by the effects of war.’
  • 2historical Kill one in every ten of (a group of soldiers or others) as a punishment for the whole group.

    • ‘Augustus firmly imposed his discipline on his men: he once dismissed an entire legion in disgrace, and didn't hesitate to decimate troops who would give in to the enemy.’

Usage

Historically, the meaning of the word decimate is ‘kill one in every ten of (a group of people).’ This sense has been superseded by the later, more general sense ‘kill or destroy a large percentage or part of,’ as in the virus has decimated the population. Some traditionalists argue that this and other later senses are incorrect, but it is clear that these extended senses are now part of standard English. It is sometimes also argued that decimate should refer to people and not to things or animals such as weeds or insects. It is generally agreed that decimate should not be used to mean ‘defeat utterly.’

Origin

Late Middle English: from Latin decimat- taken as a tenth from the verb decimare, from decimus tenth In Middle English the term decimation denoted the levying of a tithe, and later the tax imposed in England by Cromwell on the Royalists (1655). The verb decimate originally alluded to the Roman punishment of executing one man in ten of a mutinous legion.

Pronunciation:

decimate

/ˈdesəˌmāt/