top of page
The Complete Vocabulary Builder Workbook



How to pronounce decimate (audio)

Dictionary definition of decimate

To severely reduce, destroy, or eliminate a significant portion of something, typically a population, group, or a set of elements.
"The drought will decimate the crops if it doesn't rain soon."

Detailed meaning of decimate

Historically, the term was used to describe a specific form of punishment in which one in every ten soldiers in a Roman legion was executed as a means of discipline. In contemporary usage, 'decimate' doesn't necessarily mean a reduction by one-tenth but rather signifies a drastic and often devastating reduction or loss of a substantial part of a whole. It can be applied to various contexts, such as the decimation of a forest due to deforestation, the decimation of a team's chances in a game after a series of losses, or the decimation of a virus outbreak through vaccination efforts. In essence, 'decimate' underscores the idea of causing significant and widespread damage or harm, resulting in a substantial decrease in the original quantity or quality of something.

Example sentences containing decimate

1. The virus threatened to decimate the entire population if not controlled.
2. The hurricane's fury had the potential to decimate coastal communities.
3. The economic downturn could decimate small businesses across the country.
4. The invading army sought to decimate the enemy's forces and infrastructure.
5. The wildfire had already begun to decimate the forest before firefighters arrived.
6. The famine had the power to decimate the starving population.

History and etymology of decimate

The verb 'decimate' has an etymology that originates in ancient Rome. It is derived from the Latin word 'decimare,' which is formed from 'decimus,' meaning 'tenth.' In its original Roman context, 'decimare' referred to a severe military punishment in which every tenth soldier in a unit was killed as a form of discipline or to set an example. Over time, 'decimate' evolved to describe the act of severely reducing, destroying, or eliminating a significant portion of something, typically a population, group, or a set of elements. While it no longer strictly adheres to the concept of reducing by one-tenth, the term retains its historical association with the idea of significant and often destructive reduction. The etymology of 'decimate' underscores its origins in Roman military discipline and the subsequent expansion of its meaning to encompass broader forms of severe reduction or destruction.

Quiz: Find the meaning of decimate

Try Again!


Further usage examples of decimate

1. The invasive species threatened to decimate the local ecosystem.
2. The budget cuts would likely decimate essential public services.
3. The new policy could decimate the ranks of experienced teachers.
4. The plague had the ability to decimate entire medieval villages.
5. The factory closure would decimate the town's job opportunities.
6. Prolonged use of these pesticides will decimate the bee population.
7. If left unchecked, overfishing will decimate the marine life in this area.
8. A strong marketing strategy will decimate the competition.
9. The ongoing conflict could decimate the historical landmarks in the city.
10. The proposed budget cuts will decimate essential social programs.
11. The new virus strain threatens to decimate global populations if not controlled.
12. The proposed dam will decimate the local fish populations.
13. Without proper protection, poaching will decimate the elephant population.
14. Misinformation online will decimate public trust in institutions.
15. Severe weather patterns will decimate the delicate coral reefs.
16. If we don’t reduce emissions, air pollution will decimate our health.
17. The aggressive tactics in the game will decimate their opponents' morale.
18. Overuse of antibiotics will decimate the body's good bacteria.
19. The introduction of this predator will decimate the local bird species.
20. The construction project will decimate the neighborhood's charm.
21. Rapid urbanization will decimate green spaces in the city.
22. Harsh chemicals will decimate the soil quality if used excessively.
23. The company's innovation will decimate the old and outdated technologies.
24. The storm decimated the town, leaving behind widespread destruction.


ravage, restore, repair, rejuvenate


Decline and Disintegrate, Chasms and Carnage, Endings and Transitions, Destruction and Devastation

bottom of page