from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- transitive v. To destroy or kill a large part of (a group).
- transitive v. Usage Problem To inflict great destruction or damage on: The fawns decimated my rose bushes.
- transitive v. Usage Problem To reduce markedly in amount: a profligate heir who decimated his trust fund.
- transitive v. To select by lot and kill one in every ten of.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- v. To kill one man chosen by lot out of every ten in a legion or other military group.
- v. To reduce anything by one in ten, or ten percent.
- v. To exact a tithe, or tax of 10 percent.
- v. To reduce to one-tenth.
- v. To severely reduce; to destroy almost completely.
- v. To replace a high-resolution model with one of lower resolution but acceptably similar appearance.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- transitive v. To take the tenth part of; to tithe.
- transitive v. To select by lot and punish with death every tenth man of.
- transitive v. To destroy a considerable part of
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- To take the tenth part of or from; tithe.
- To select by lot and put to death every tenth man of: as, to decimate a captured army or a body of prisoners or mutineers (a barbarity occasionally practised in antiquity).
- Loosely, to destroy a great but indefinite number or proportion of: as, the inhabitants were decimated by fever; the troops were decimated by the enemy's fire.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- v. kill in large numbers
- v. kill one in every ten, as of mutineers in Roman armies
Latin decimāre, decimāt-, to punish every tenth person, from decimus, tenth, from decem, ten; see dekm̥ in Indo-European roots.(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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; compare quintate. (Wiktionary)