AskDefine | Define decimate

Dictionary Definition



1 kill one in every ten, as of mutineers in Roman armies
2 kill in large numbers; "the plague wiped out an entire population" [syn: eliminate, annihilate, extinguish, eradicate, wipe out, carry off]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin decimare ‘to take the tenth (decimus) part of anything,’ in particular referring to the levying and payment of tithe and also the practice of capital punishment applied to one man at random (by lot) out of every ten in a legion.


  • a RP /ˈdɛ.sɪ.meɪt/
  • a US , /ˈdɛ.sə.meɪt/, /"des@%meIt/


  1. italbrac Roman history To kill one man chosen by lot out of every ten in a legion or other military group.
  2. To reduce anything by one in ten, or ten percent.
  3. To exact a tithe, or tax of 10 percent
    • 1669: John Dryden, The wild gallant - I have heard you are as poor as a decimated Cavalier [referring to Cromwell's ten per cent. income-tax on Cavaliers], and had not one foot of land in all the world.
    • 2004: In addition, an ordinance was published that “all who had ever borne arms for the king, or declared themselves to be of the royal party, should be decimated, that is, pay a tenth part of all the estate which they had left, to support the charge which the commonwealth was put to [...] —John Lingard, History of England
  4. To reduce to one-tenth.
  5. To severely reduce; to destroy almost completely.
    • 1856+: James Froude, History of England from the fall of Wolsey to the death of Elizabeth - It [England] had decimated itself for a question which involved no principle, and led to no result.
  6. italbrac computer graphics To replace a high-resolution model with one of lower resolution but acceptably similar appearance.
    • 1999: A decimate tool allows us to obtain a more coarse-grained view of the data over the full -dimensional space. — Mihalisin, Timlin and Schwegler in Visualizing Multivariate Functions, Data and Distributions, collected in Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think, ISBN 1558605339, p.122
    • 2001: However, many times it is more practical to decimate existing high-res models because of time, money or manpower issues. — in Inside 3Ds Max 4, edited by Kim Lee, ISBN 0735710945, p. 56
    • 2004: Given this initial fine mesh, we smooth and decimate it to a desired mesh resolution. — Geremy Heitz, Torsten Rohlfing and Calvin Maurer in Automatic Generation of Shape Models using Nonrigid Registration with a Single Segmented Template Mesh collected in Vision Modeling and Visualization 2004 ISBN 1586034723, p. 74

Usage notes

The definition reduce by one in ten is occasionally cited as "the correct" definition, with severely reduce considered a "misconception," reading decimate as to reduce to one-tenth rather than by one-tenth.
The Cambridge Guide to English Usage states that the nonspecific use of this word to mean devastate or severely reduce the numbers of is ‘nowadays the commonest use of the word in both British and American English, and it’s registered without comment in modern dictionaries.’ It also advises against using numbers with the term, as ‘They are redundant where it means “reduce by one tenth,” and where it doesn't they confound the arithmetic.’
The 23 occurrences of decimate in the British National Corpus — compare decimates, decimated, and decimating — almost all clearly accord with the nonspecific sense. The only references to the historical sense are two complaints about modern usage and its critics. Neither of these actually uses the term to mean "reduce by one-tenth".

Related terms






Extensive Definition

Decimation may refer to:

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

annihilate, bring to ruin, butcher, commit carnage, commit genocide, commit mass murder, condemn, confound, consume, damn, deal destruction, demolish, depopulate, depredate, desolate, despoil, destroy, devastate, devour, dissolve, engorge, exterminate, gobble, gobble up, gut, gut with fire, havoc, incinerate, lay in ruins, lay waste, massacre, murder wholesale, ravage, raze, ruin, ruinate, shipwreck, slaughter, slay en masse, swallow up, throw into disorder, unbuild, undo, unleash destruction, unleash the hurricane, unmake, upheave, vandalize, vaporize, waste, wipe out, wrack, wreak havoc, wreck
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1